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GEORGE  BERNARD   SHAW 

HIS    LIFE   AND    WORKS 


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4 


I 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

HIS  LIFE  AND  WORKS 


A  CRITICAL  BIOGRAPHY 

(Authorized) 


By 
ARCHIBALD  HENDERSON,  M.A.,  Ph.D. 

Of  the  University  of  North  Carolina 


With  33  Illustrations,  including  two  Plates  in   Colour  (one  from  an  autochrome 

by  Alvin  Langdon  Coburn,  the  other  from  a  water-colour  by  Bernard 

Partridge),  two  Photogravures  (Coburn  and  Steicheri), 

and  numerous  facsimiles  in  the  text 


STEWART  &  KIDD  COMPANY 

CINCINNATI 

1911 


b3  4.  t 


COPYEIOHT,      1911, 

STEWART  &  KIDD  CO. 


©CLA300933 


AUTHOR'S  INTRODUCTION 

More  than  six  years  ago  I  conceived  the  idea  of  writing  a  book 
about  Bernard  Shaw.  The  magnitude  of  the  undertaking  and 
the  elusiveness  of  the  subject,  had  I  realized  them  then  in  their 
full  significance,  might  well  have  made  me  pause.  My  earliest 
interest  in  his  work,  aroused  by  his  thoughtful  laughter  and 
piqued  by  his  elfish  impudence,  convinced  me  that  this  re- 
markable talent  was  like  no  other  I  had  known. 

In  characteristic  style,  Mr.  Shaw  once  gave  the  following 
fantastic  account  of  the  evolution  of  the  present  work.  A  young 
American  professor,  Shaw  explained,  wished  to  write  a  book 
about  him.  Originally,  he  thought  of  beginning  his  task  by 
writing  an  article  for  a  daily  newspaper.  But  so  rapidly  did  the 
material  grow  that  he  soon  saw  the  necessity  of  expanding  the 
newspaper  article  into  a  long  essay  for  a  monthly  review.  When 
the  essay  was  completed,  in  view  of  the  mass  of  material  in  his 
hands,  it  appeared  totally  inadequate  to  express  what  he  really 
wished  to  say  about  Bernard  Shaw.  It  then  occurred  to  him  to 
write  a  short  book  entitled  "  G.  B.  S."  Alas !  This  plan  had 
also  to  be  relinquished,  for  it  was  now  manifest  that  in  no  such 
small  compass  was  it  possible  to  do  justice  to  his  subject.  At 
last  he  hit  upon  the  brilliant  scheme  of  his  final  adoption:  he 
would  write  a  history  of  modern  thought  in  twenty  volumes. 
After  considering  the  forerunners  of  his  hero  in  the  first  nine- 
teen volumes,  he  would  devote  the  twentieth  solely  to  the 
treatment  of  George  Bernard  Shaw. 

Such  is  the  history  of  the  genesis  of  this  book — as  narrated 
by  Shaw  in  the  well-known  Milesian  manner.  His  whimsicalities 
find  gay  expression  in  the  invention  of  such  fantastic  stories, 
which  delight  his  auditors  and  exasperate  only  the  persons 
concerning  whom  the  invention  is  concocted.  For  example,  Mr. 
Shaw  once  laughingly  declared  that  "  Henderson  began  by  hail- 
ing me  as  an  infant  prodigy,  and  ended  by  pronouncing  me  a 
genius."     And  he  delights  in  retailing  the  story  of  my  chiv- 


AUTHOR'S  INTRODUCTION 

alrously  coming  to  his  rescue  under  the  impression  that  he  was 
an  unknown  and  struggling  dramatist  who  sorely  needed,  and 
greatly  deserved,  enthusiastic  championship. 

The  real  history  of  this  biography,  if  not  so  interesting  or 
amusing,  at  least  possesses  the  merit  of  greater  accuracy.  I 
was  first  drawn  to  Shaw,  not  because  he  was  a  Socialist,  a  pub- 
licist, an  economist.  I  was  concerned  with  neither  his  fame  nor 
his  obscurity.  I  had  seen  his  plays  produced  in  America,  had 
followed  the  ups  and  downs  of  his  career  as  a  dramatist,  and 
was  marking  the  rise  of  his  star  successively  in  Austria  and 
Germany.  The  Shaw  who  caught  and  held  my  interest  was  the 
dramatist  of  a  new  type.  I  planned  writing  a  brief  study  of 
Bernard  Shaw  and  his  plays  less  comprehensive  in  scope  even 
than  the  subsequent  studies  of  Holbrook  Jackson,  Gilbert  Ches- 
terton and  Julius  Bab.  Mr.  Shaw  furnished  me  with  a  brief 
outline  of  his  career  and  I  set  to  work.  After  studying  his  works 
for  some  months,  I  sent  a  series  of  queries  to  Mr.  Shaw.  Fear 
fell  upon  me  when,  some  time  later,  I  received  from  him  a  card 
saying  that  he  had  only  come  to  the  forty-first  page  of  his 
reply ;  and  he  assured  me  that  if  this  business  was  to  come  off, 
it  might  as  well  be  done  thoroughly.  Fear  was  turned  to  con- 
sternation when  the  big  budget  finally  arrived.  "  I  knew  that 
you  thought  you  were  dealing  simply  with  a  new  dramatist," 
wrote  Mr.  Shaw,  "  whereas,  to  myself,  all  the  fuss  about  Can- 
dida was  only  a  remote  ripple  from  the  splashes  I  made  in  the 
days  of  my  warfare  long  ago.  I  do  not  think  what  you  propose 
is  important  as  my  biography,  but  a  thorough  biography  of 
any  man  who  is  up  to  the  chin  in  the  life  of  his  time  as  I  have 
been  is  worth  writing  as  a  historical  document ;  and,  therefore, 
if  you  still  care  to  face  it,  I  am  willing  to  give  you  what  help 
I  can.  Indeed,  you  can  force  my  hand  to  some  extent,  for 
any  story  that  you  start  will  pursue  me  to  all  eternity ;  and  if 
there  is  to  be  a  biography,  it  is  worth  my  while  to  make  it  as 
accurate  as  possible." 

In  this  way  my  original  plan  was  developed  and  expanded. 
Mr.  Shaw's  abundant  sympathy  and  encouragement;  the  over- 
flowing measure  of  material  afforded  me ;  the  insight  into  a  life 
and  a  period  of  tremendous  significance  and  vitality;  all  these 

vi 


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Facsimile  of  page  54  of  a  letter  from  Bernard  Shaw  to  the  biographer,  of  date  January  17th,    1905. 


AUTHOR'S  INTRODUCTION 

combined  to  offer  an  opportunity  not  to  be  neglected.  My 
interest  in  the  subject  deepened  with  my  knowledge.  It  became 
my  aim  to  write — not  a  Rougon-Macquart  history  of  modern 
thought  in  twenty  volumes — but  an  account  of  the  movements 
of  a  most  interesting  period,  the  last  quarter  of  the  nineteenth 
and  the  opening  decade  of  the  twentieth  centuries,  a  propos  of 
Bernard  Shaw.  As  the  work  progressed,  Shaw  warned  me — 
and  the  reporters — that  in  attempting  his  biography  I  had  un- 
dertaken a  "  terrific  task,"  an  opinion  endorsed  by  others.  I 
remember  one  day  being  introduced  to  Mr.  Bram  Stoker  as 
Bernard  Shaw's  biographer;  whereupon  he  remarked  with 
genuine  feeling  in  his  tone :  "  I  can  only  say  that  you  have  my 
prof oundest  sympathy !  "  Soon  after  I  had  fairly  embarked 
upon  the  undertaking,  in  fact,  Shaw  pointed  out  to  me  its 
magnitude.  "  I  want  you  to  do  something  that  will  be  useful 
to  yourself  and  to  the  world,"  he  wrote  in  February,  1905 ;  "  and 
that  is,  to  make  me  a  mere  peg  on  which  to  hang  a  study  of  the 
last  quarter  of  the  nineteenth  century,  especially  as  to  the  col- 
lectivist  movement  in  politics,  ethics  and  sociology;  the  Ibsen- 
Nietzschean  movement  in  morals;  the  reaction  against  the  ma- 
terialism of  Marx  and  Darwin;  the  Wagnerian  movement  in 
music;  and  the  anti-romantic  movement  (including  what  people 
call  realism,  materialism  and  impressionism)  in  literature  and 
art." 

During  the  progress  of  the  work  I  beheld  Shaw  conquer  Amer- 
ica, then  Germany,  then  England,  and,  lastly,  the  Scandinavian 
countries  and  Continental  Europe.  I  realized  that  my  subject, 
beginning  as  a  somewhat  obscure  Irish  author,  had  thrown  off 
the  garb  of  submerged  renown,  taken  the  public  by  storm,  and 
become  the  most  universally  popular  living  dramatist,  and  the 
most  frequently  paragraphed  man  in  the  world.  No  British 
dramatist — not  even  Shakespeare  ! — had  conquered  the  world 
during  his  lifetime;  yet  Shaw,  just  past  fifty,  had  succeeded  in 
turning  this  cosmic  trick.  Clippings,  pictures,  journals  and 
books  poured  in  upon  me  from  every  quarter  of  the  globe.  I 
discovered  that  Shaw  was  a  man  with  a  past  as  well  as  a  genius 
with  a  future,  and  I  realized  the  truth  of  his  cryptic  boast  that 
he  had  lived  for  three  centuries. 

vii 


AUTHOR'S  INTRODUCTION 

Now  and  then,  to  relieve  the  burden  of  my  thoughts,  I  would 
write  an  essay  for  some  German,  French,  or  American  review. 
But  I  only  met  with  base  ingratitude  from  the  subject  of  the 
essay.  "  Your  articles  have  been  a  most  fearful  curse  to  me," 
Mr.  Shaw  wrote  me  on  one  occasion,  after  the  appearance  of  an 
article  in  which  I  had  referred  to  his  unobtrusive  philanthropy. 
"  For  instance,  the  day  before  yesterday  I  got  a  typical  letter. 
The  writer  has  nine  children ;  has  lost  his  wife  suddenly,  and  was 
on  the  point  of  shooting  himself  in  desperation  for  want  of 
fifteen  pounds  to  get  him  out  of  his  difficulties,  when  he  hap- 
pened to  come  on  a  copy  of  your  article.  He  instantly  felt  that 
here  was  the  man  to  give  him  the  fifteen  pounds  and  save  his 
life.  He  is  only  one  out  of  a  dozen  who  have  had  the  same 
idea.  I  shall  refer  them  all  to  you  with  assurances  that  you 
have  read  your  own  character  into  mine,  and  are  a  man  with 
a  feeling  heart,  a  full  pocket,  and  a  ready  hand  to  give  to  the 
afflicted." 

When  the  book  was  well  under  way,  I  came  to  Engand,  at 
Mr.  Shaw's  invitation,  to  "  study  my  subject."  My  views  of 
his  work  and  genius  remained  fundamentally  the  same,  though 
the  personal  contact  with  one  of  the  most  vivid  and  remarkable 
personalities  of  our  time,  quite  naturally  brought  about  some 
marked  modifications  of  my  more  remote  impressions,  and  cor- 
rected some  of  the  minor  misunderstandings  which  are  inevitable 
in  the  absence  of  a  personal  acquaintance.  Many  passages  in 
his  works,  many  phases  of  his  personality,  hitherto  obscure  or 
incomprehensible,  became  clear  to  me.  I  learned  the  meaning 
of  his  plays,  the  purport  of  his  philosophy,  and  the  objects  of 
his  life  not  from  my  viewpoint  alone,  but  from  his  own.  In 
the  quiet  of  Ayot,  we  read  and  discussed  together  the  portion  of 
the  biography  then  written.  With  frequent  criticism  and  com- 
ment Mr.  Shaw  helped  me  to  a  new  and  larger  comprehension 
of  his  life  and  work. 

On  my  return  to  America  I  once  more  approached  my  task — 
this  time  with  the  illumination  of  personality,  and  with  the  deeper 
knowledge  of  his  own  interpretation  of  his  life  and  works,  even 
though  Mr.  Shaw's  views  might  not,  and  often  did  not,  entirely 

viii 


SHAW    AND    THE     BIOGRAPHER. 
Ayot  St.   Lawrence.   Hertfordshire.      July.    1907. 
From  a  photograph   taken   by  Mrs.    Bernard  Shaw. 


[Facing  p.  x. 


AUTHOR'S  INTRODUCTION 

tally  with  my  own.  The  biography  was  now  written  finally,  from 
the  first  chapter  to  the  last. 

One  who  has  pursued  the  errant  course  of  a  Will-o'-the-wisp 
may  understand  somewhat  of  my  effort  to  follow  the  devious 
route  of  G.  B.  S.  With  interest,  though  I  confess  at  times 
with  dwindling  patience,  I  have  followed  the  lure  of  that  occa- 
sionally somewhat  impishly  un-kindly  light,  "  o'er  moor  and  fen, 
o'er  crag  and  torrent,"  till  after  the  fashion  of  his  kind,  he 
abandoned  me,  wayfaring,  on  the  brink  of  the  abyss  to  save 
my  neck  as  best  I  might.     Which  things  are  a  parable. 

Characteristically,  and,  it  must  be  admitted,  in  a  sense  justly, 
he  remarks  that  a  biography  of  a  living  man  cannot  be  finished 
till  he  is  dead,  or  words  to  that  effect.  But  the  chances  there 
are  against  the  Biographer  as  well  as  the  Biographed;  and  I 
have  no  fancy,  I  confess,  that  the  book  should  be,  as  he  once 
maliciously  prophesied,  "  a  posthumous  work  for  both  of  us," 
nor  that  he  should  be  justified  in  his  presentiment  that  we 
should  "  both  die  the  moment  we  finished  it." 

While  nothing  but  death  can  fitly  end  a  man's  life,  being  no 
Boswell,  and  having  my  own  life  to  attend  to  as  well  as  his,  I 
have  brought  these  "  twenty  volumes  "  to  a  close.  A  man  who 
has  already,  by  his  own  account,  "  lived  three  centuries,"  is  as 
likely  to  live  three  more;  but  it  is  less  probable  that  I  shall  see 
the  end  of  them.  So  I  take  Time  by  the  forelock  and  write 
•finis  to  a  contribution  which  can  only  hope  to  cover  the  first 
three  centuries. 

"  Who  is  to  tackle  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw,"  Mr.  Augustine  Birrell 
once  asked,  "  and  assign  to  him  his  proper  place  in  the  provi- 
dential order  of  the  world?"  This  work  is  in  no  sense  an 
effort  to  assign  to  Bernard  Shaw  his  "  proper  place  in  the  provi- 
dential order  of  the  world."  Such  a  task  it  is  impossible  to 
accomplish  so  long  as  Shaw  lives  to  belie  it.  No  more  is  it 
possible  to  say  the  final  word  about  any  genius  in  mid-career 
with  limitless  possibilities  before  him.  Shaw's  masterpiece — 
even  a  series  of  masterpieces ! — perhaps  remains  to  be  written. 
His  career  may  have  only  just  begun. 

This  book  is  designed  to  give  an  authoritative  account,  bio- 
graphical and  critical,  of  Bernard  Shaw's  work,  art,  philosophy 

ix 


AUTHOR'S  INTRODUCTION 

and  life  up  to  the  present  time.  Perhaps  its  appearance  is  not 
premature.  Shaw  has  suffered  no  little  from  the  Shavians.  He 
has  served  more  than  once  as  an  excuse  for  propaganda  and 
counter-propaganda.  But  save  for  one  or  two  glaring  excep- 
tions, the  fatuities  of  the  cult,  and  the  image  of  the  shrine  and 
burning  candles  have  in  large  measure  vanished — it  is  hoped,  to 
return  no  more.  The  time  seems  ripe  for  conscientious  and 
thoughtful  consideration  of  the  man  and  his  work,  in  relation 
to  the  thought  movement  of  our  time — irrespective  of  political 
bias  and  personal  prejudice.  Perhaps  the  portrait,  though 
neither  "  disparaging  "  nor  "  unflattering,"  may  present  the 
"  real  Shaw,"  if  more  "  unexpectedly,"  perhaps  no  less  truly, 
in  that  I  am  "  a  stranger  to  the  Irish-British  environment." 

If  I  have  succeeded  in  removing  a  legendary  figure  from  the 
atmosphere  of  contemporary  mythology,  and  in  portraying  the 
real  man  in  the  light  of  common  day,  then  an  earnest  search  for 
the  aurea  media  of  true  criticism  will  not  have  proved  wholly 
fruitless.  I  hope  I  may  have  succeeded,  in  some  adequate  de- 
gree, in  exhibiting,  in  their  true  colours,  what  Mr.  Gilbert  Ches- 
terton once  justly  described  to  me  in  a  letter  as  "  that  humour 
and  that  courage  which  have  cleansed  so  much  of  the  intellect 
of  to-day." 


PREFACE 

I  have  neither  space  nor  words  to  express,  in  full  measure, 
my  gratitude  and  indebtedness  to  the  many  friends,  critics, 
scholars  and  men  of  letters  who  have  aided  me  in  the  preparation 
of  this  work.  First  of  all  I  wish  to  thank  Mr.  Shaw  himself  for 
his  assistance.  The  voluminous  correspondence  filled  with  criti- 
cism, exposition  and  reminiscence;  the  immense  trouble  taken 
in  placing  ample  materials  at  my  disposal;  the  personal  assist- 
ance in  detailed  discussion  of  the  work — will  have  made  this 
work  possible.  For  the  views  expressed  in  this  biography  Mr. 
Shaw  is  in  no  sense  responsible.  On  many  points  we  are  in 
hearty  disagreement.  At  this  place,  I  take  pleasure  in  express- 
ing my  indebtedness  to  Mrs.  Shaw,  for  kind  assistance  and 
helpful  suggestions. 

Valuable  assistance,  especially  in  connection  with  the  earlier 
stages  of  Shaw's  career  as  a  dramatist,  was  derived  from  Mr. 
William  Archer's  collection  of  Shaviana,  which  he  freely  and 
most  generously  placed  at  my  disposal.  The  chapter  on  Shaw 
as  a  critic  of  music  I  could  not  have  written  without  the  articles 
lent  me  by  Mr.  Archer.  I  am  likewise  greatly  indebted  to 
Mr.  Holbrook  Jackson,  who  gave  me  free  access  to  his  collection 
of  Shaviana,  and  lent  me  valuable  material  hitherto  unknown  to 
me,  or  inaccessible.  During  the  entire  course  of  the  preparation 
of  the  present  work,  I  have  received  the  counsel  and  aid  of  that 
scholarly  student  of  the  drama,  Mr.  James  Piatt  White,  of 
Buffalo,  New  York,  who  freely  placed  the  services  of  himself 
and  his  fine  library  of  dramatic  literature  at  my  disposal. 

To  certain  able  students  of  Shaw's  work,  some  of  them  not 
known  to  me  personally,  and  also  to  a  few  personal  friends,  I 
am  also  especially  indebted.  To  Mr.  John  Corbin,  Professor 
William  Lyon  Phelps  and  Professor  E.  E.  Hale,  Jr.,  in 
connection  with  the  chapters  treating  of  the  plays ;  to  Mr.  James 
Huneker,  in  connection  with  the  chapter  treating  of  Shaw  as  a 

xi 


PREFACE 

critic  of  music ;  to  the  late  Mr.  Samuel  L.  Clemens  and  to  Dr. 

C.  Alphonso  Smith  in  connection  with  other  critical  and  bio- 
graphical chapters — for  reading  these  portions  of  the  work,  for 
helpful  criticism  in  some  instances,  for  the  loan  of  material  in 
others,  to  all  my  thanks  are  gratefully  accorded.  Needless  to 
say,  they  are  in  no  wise  responsible  for  any  faults  or  errors  of 
mine.  In  various  ways,  in  lesser  degree,  I  am  indebted  to  Miss 
Sally  Fair  child,  Mr.  Henry  George,  Jr.,  Mr.  J.  T.  Grein  and 
Mr.  Austin  Lewis. 

Of  foreign  critics,  I  wish  especially  to  thank  M.  Augustin 
Hamon,  the  French  translator  of  Shaw's  works,  for  his  inter- 
esting suggestions,  his  numerous  acts  of  kindness,  and  for  the 
rich  mass  of  documents  embodying  the  continental  criticism  of 
Shaw  with  which  he  has  kept  me  supplied ;  and  Herr  Siegfried 
Trebitsch,  of  Vienna,  the  German  translator  of  Shaw's  works, 
for  detailed  information  in  regard  to  Shaw's  position  and  recog- 
nition in  German  Europe.  I  cannot  permit  myself  to  omit  from 
the  list  of  those  to  whom  I  am  especially  indebted  the  names 
of  M.  Jean  Blum,  formerly  Professor  at  the  Lycee,  Oran,  Al- 
geria ;  Herr  Heinrich  Stiimcke,  editor  of  Biihne  unci  Welt;  Pro- 
fessor Paul  Haensel,  of  the  University  of  Moscow;  Dr.  Julius 
Brouta,  of  Madrid,  the  Spanish  translator  of  Shaw's  works ; 
Herr  Hugo  Vallentin,  the  Swedish  translator  of  Shaw's  works ; 
Mr.  J.  M.  Borup,  the  Danish  translator  of  Shaw's  works ;  Baron 
Reinhold  von  Willebrand,  editor  of  the  Finsk  Tidskrift,  Helsing- 
fors,  Finland;  M.  Auguste  Filon,  now  resident  in  England,  I 
believe;  and  Dr.  Georg  Brandes,  of  Copenhagen.  In  the  text 
of  the  present  work,  or  in  footnotes,  I  trust  I  have  not  failed 
to  express  my  indebtedness  to  everyone,  not  heretofore  men- 
tioned, who,  in  one  way  or  another,  has  aided  me  in  the  present 
work.  I  should,  however,  like  to  acknowledge  here  my  indebted- 
ness to  the  officials  of  the  Library  of  Congress,  Washington, 

D.  C,  of  the  British  Museum,  and  of  the  Cambridge  University 
Library,  for  their  unfailing  courtesy  and  helpfulness. 

I  have  taken  the  utmost  pains  to  include  among  the  illustra- 
tions the  most  notable  representations  ever  made  of  Shaw — 
sculpture,  portrait,  photograph  and  cartoon.  Moreover,  the 
thought  of  presenting  Shaw  to  the  eye  in  the  most  character- 

xii 


PREFACE 

istic  and  representative  way,  as  he  appeared  at  various  stages 
in  his  career,  has  been  constantly  borne  in  mind.  My  thanks 
are  now  expressed  to  M.  Auguste  Rodin  for  permission  to  repro- 
duce a  photograph  of  his  bronze  bust  of  Shaw,  the  marble 
replica  of  which,  presented  by  Mr.  Shaw,  now  stands  in  the 
Municipal  Gallery  of  Modern  Art,  Dublin;  to  Prince  Paul 
Troubetzkoy,  Paris,  for  a  photograph  of  his  remarkable  plaster 
bust  of  Shaw,  said  to  have  been  made  in  forty  minutes ;  to  the 
Hon.  Neville  S.  Lytton,  for  permission  to  reproduce  his  unique 
portrait  of  Mr.  Shaw,  after  the  Innocent  X.  of  Velasquez;  to 
Mr.  Bernard  Partridge  for  the  loan  of  his  admirable  water- 
colour  of  Shaw;  to  Miss  Jessie  Holliday  for  the  loan  of  her 
striking  water-colour  of  Shaw,  her  photo-drawing  of  Mr.  Webb, 
and  her  sketch  of  Mr.  Archer ;  to  Mr.  Max  Beerbohm  and  Mr. 
E.  T.  Reed  for  permission  to  reproduce  cartoons  of  Shaw;  to 
Mr.  H.  G.  Wells  for  permission  to  reproduce  his  drawing  of 
six  Socialists;  to  Mr.  Joseph  Simpson,  the  artist,  and  Mr.  J. 
Murray  Allison,  the  owner,  for  the  loan  of  a  black-and-white 
wash  drawing — all  the  best  of  their  kind.  I  was  so  fortunate 
as  to  enlist  the  interest  and  co-operation  of  those  two  great 
American  artist-photographers,  Alvin  Langdon  Coburn  (Lon- 
don) and  Eduard  J.  Steichen  (Paris).  Notable  portraits  and 
pictures  were  taken  by  them  especially  for  this  work — one 
Lumiere  autochrome  and  four  monochromes  by  Mr.  Coburn,  and 
two  monochromes  by  Mr.  Steichen.  For  permission  to  photo- 
graph the  first  and  last  pages  of  the  original  manuscript  of 
Love  Among  the  Artists — and  also  for  supplying  me  with 
much  other  valuable  material — I  am  indebted  to  Mr.  D.  J.  Rider. 
I  wish  to  express  my  thanks  to  Dr.  M.  L.  Ettinghausen,  of 
Munich,  who  secured  for  me  many  playbills  of  the  productions 
of  Shaw's  plays  in  German  Europe.  I  wish  to  express  my 
thanks  also  to  Mr.  Roger  Ingpen,  for  his  assistance  in  the 
matter  of  illustrations.  My  thanks  are  likewise  extended  to 
the  proprietors  of  Punch  and  Vanity  Fair  for  permission  to 
reproduce  certain  cartoons  which  originally  appeared  in  those 
publications.  In  especial,  I  wish  to  thank  Mrs.  Shaw  for  her 
intelligent  aid  in  the  selection  of  likenesses  of  Mr.  Shaw  from 
his  own  large  collection. 

xiii 


PREFACE 

In  accordance  with  the  original  plan  for  the  biography  of 
Mr.  Shaw,  the  present  volume  was  to  contain  an  appendix* 
treating  chronologically  and  critically  of  the  production  of 
Shaw's  plays  throughout  the  world,  from  the  inception  of  his 
career  as  a  dramatist.  It  has  proved  advisable  to  publish  this 
appendix  later  in  a  separate,  souvenir  volume,  embodying  the 
history  of  the  dramatic  movement  inaugurated  by  Bernard 
Shaw.  Consequently,  the  chapters  in  the  present  volume  deal- 
ing with  Shaw's  plays  are  concerned  primarily  with  critical 
discussion  of  the  genesis  and  art  of  the  plays,  touching  upon 
their  production  only  in  the  most  casual  and  adventitious  way. 

Mr.  Shaw  is  fond  of  saying :  "  I  am  a  typical  Irishman ;  my 
family  came  from  Hampshire."  His  lineal  ancestor,  Captain 
William  Shaw,  was  of  Scotch  descent;  lived  in  Hampshire, 
England;  and  in  1689  went  to  Ireland,  where  the  family  has 
since  lived.  The  strains  in  Mr.  Shaw's  ancestry  are  so  compli- 
cated and  interwoven,  that  it  has  seemed  important  to  publish 
a  genealogical  chart  of  the  Shaw  family.  The  researches  were 
conducted  by  the  expert  genealogist,  Rev.  W.  Ball  Wright, 
M.A.,  Osbaldwick  Vicarage,  York,  at  the  instance  and  under  the 
direction  of  Mr.  Shaw  himself.  The  chart,  compiled  from  the 
data  of  Mr.  Wright,  was  prepared  by  the  experts  of  the 
Grafton  Genealogical  Press,  New  York. 


To  my  wife,  for  her  untiring  assistance  and  inestimably 
valuable  criticism,  I  cannot  cancel  my  debt  of  gratitude  by 
any  expressions,  however  eloquent.  I  could  not  have  written 
this  book  without  her  aid.  It  is  to  her  intellectual  directness 
and  to  her  genius  for  suggestive  criticism,  that  the  present 
volume  owes  very  much  of  whatever  merit  it  may  possess. 

Archibald  Henderson. 
Cambridge,  England. 
November  30th,  1910. 


xiv 


PREFACE  TO  THE  AMERICAN  EDITION 

The  association  of  America  and  Bernard  Shaw  connotes,  at 
the  first  glance,  incongruity  if  not  mutual  antipathy.  There 
is  at  once  a  suggestion  of  conflict  between  the  most  individual- 
istic personality  of  the  day  and  the  most  individualistic  nation 
of  the  world.  One  of  America's  deplorable,  if  amiable,  weak- 
nesses is  the  predilection  for  inviting  estimates  of  herself  from 
supercilious  people  who  know  nothing  about  her.  And  one  of 
Shaw's  amusing  idiosyncracies  is  his  fancy  for  discoursing 
freely  upon  subjects  of  which  he  is  pathetically  ignorant.  Bull- 
baiting  is  his  daily  pastime ;  but  now  and  then  he  eagerly  yields 
to  the  tempting  invitation  to  take  a  new  fling  at  America.  So 
from  time  to  time  we  have  the  diverting  spectacle  of  a  remarka- 
bly clever  and  shrewd  Irishman  making  quaintly  stupid  and 
delightfully  inapposite  strictures  upon  a  country  he  has  never 
visited  and  upon  a  people  among  whom  he  has  never  lived  or 
even  sojourned. 

Imagine  a  Martian  making  his  first  studies  of  the  United 
States  through  the  sole  intermediary  of  the  writings  and  dis^ 
courses  of  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw.  What  a  lurid  and  shocking  pic- 
ture would  be  presented  to  his  view!  The  United  States,  thus 
portrayed,  is  a  "  nation  of  villagers,"  suburban  in  instinct  and 
parochial  in  moral  judgments,  "  overridden  with  old-fashioned 
creeds  and  a  capitalistic  religion."  The  Americans  are  an  "  ap- 
palling, horrible,  narrow  lot,"  and  America  is  a  "  land  of 
unthinking,  bigoted  persecution."  The  American  woman  is 
attractive,  beautiful,  and  well-dressed — but  has  no  soul.  The 
American  man  is  a  machine  of  voluble  activity  without  pro- 
gressive impetus,  whose  single  aim  is  the  acquisition  of  wealth. 
America  is  a  semi-barbaric  country,  incessantly  shocking  the 
world  with  its  crass  exposures  of  political  corruption  and  in- 
dustrial brigandage,  murders,  manslaughters,  and  lynchings, 
peonage,  sweat-shops,  child-labor,  and  white  slavery.  It  is  fifty 
years  behind  England,  and  a  hundred  years  behind  Europe,  in 

xv 


PREFACE  TO  THE  AMERICAN  EDITION 

art,  literature,  science,  religion,  and  government — in  a  word, 
in  civilization. 

This  lurid  chromo,  painted  in  crude  and  primary  colors,  is 
clearly  the  Shavian  reflection  of  English  press-opinion  of  Amer- 
ica and  the  Americans — if  it  is  not  one  of  Mr.  Shaw's  most 
successful  comic  fictions.  In  whatever  proportion  jest  and 
earnest  may  be  commingled  in  such  a  comic  fiction,  certainly  it 
is  disappointing  to  find  a  man  who  has  often  proven  himself 
an  exceedingly  clear-sighted  observer  and  astute  thinker  with 
respect  to  subjects  upon  which  he  is  fully  informed,  betray  so 
pathetic  an  ignorance  of  the  realities  of  American  life.  Mr. 
Shaw  has  been  content  to  acquire  his  notions  concerning  America 
at  second  hand,  and  often  at  third  and  fourth — a  method  of 
acquiring  information  which  is  to  be  recommended  for  ease 
rather  than  for  accuracy. 

The  English  newspaper  is,  actually,  a  standing  menace  to  per- 
fectly equable  relations  between  England  and  America.  There 
is  a  yellowness  of  sensationalism,  and  there  is  a  yellowness  of 
deliberate  misrepresentation.  There  is  a  deeper,  more  subtle 
inaccuracy  than  that  which  inheres  in  the  distortion  of  facts; 
it  is  the  inaccuracy  which  inheres  in  the  suppression  of  facts; 
The  picture  of  America  daily  presented  to  English  eyes  through 
the  medium  of  the  English  press  is  a  caricature — a  broad,  crude 
caricature.  It  is  so  flagrant  as  to  lead  to  the  lurid  chromo  of 
America  achieved  by  Mr.  Shaw.  The  English  visitor  to  the 
United  States,  who  gets  no  further  than  the  hotels  of  the  great 
cities  and  the  rear  platform  of  an  observation  car,  catches  only 
the  most  superficial  of  impressions — chiefly  of  the  hurried 
metropolitan  search  for  wealth  and  of  the  natural,  still  almost 
primitive,  wildness  of  the  landscape.  England  means  censorious- 
ness;  and  English  curiosity  and  inquisitiveness  are  more  than 
often  misguided — searching  into  and  accentuating  those  phases 
of  American  life  and  character  which  are  most  open  to  adverse 
criticism,  and  overlooking  or  ignoring  those  indicative  features 
and  attributes  which  are  most  suggestive  in  their  utility  and 
value. 

In  reality,  England  and  America  have  much  to  learn  from 
each  other  that  will  be  mutually  helpful  and  beneficial.  That 
spirit  of  generosity  which  characterizes  America  in  her  relations 

xvi 


PREFACE  TO  THE  AMERICAN  EDITION 

to  all  the  world  is  the  significant  deficiency  in  the  English 
national  character.  America  is  the  supreme  exemplar  of  inter- 
nationalism. America  is  open-mindedness,  enterprise,  acquisi- 
tiveness. England,  as  instanced  most  signally  in  her  splendid 
public  institutions,  is  unsparingly  generous — liberally  sharing 
her  treasures  with  all  the  rest  of  the  world.  But  she  is  deplora- 
bly retrograde,  as  a  nation,  through  declining  to  utilize  the  best 
that  is  to  be  found  in  other  nationalities  and  other  civilizations. 
It  is,  perhaps,  sometimes  more  generous  to  receive  than  to  give. 
England  austerely  plays  the  role  of  model  to  other  nations; 
but  she  cannot  abide  to  "  sit  at  the  feet  of  wisdom,"  to  appro- 
priate for  her  own  advancement  the  good  and  the  useful  in 
others,  whosoever  those  others  may  be.  England's  besetting  sin 
of  national  vanity  is  the  canker  in  the  flower  of  her  civilization, 
the  ominous  source  of  her  progressive  relinquishment  of  interna- 
tional supremacy. 

On  the  other  hand,  America  has  much  to  learn  from  England, 
and  from  that  phase  of  English  spirit  signally  exemplified  in 
the  person  of  Bernard  Shaw.  For  if  he  is  anything,  Shaw  is 
a  free  thinker — in  the  original  and  entirely  uncorrupted  mean- 
ing of  that  term.  His  is  that  boundless  naivete  so  fertile  for 
truth's  own  discovery.  Not  only  is  he  free  thinker :  he  is  equally 
free  writer  and  free  speaker.  He  says  exactly  what  he  thinks — 
and  a  good  deal  more.  He  coats  the  pill  of  the  satirist  with 
the  sugar  of  the  artist;  his  wit  stands  sponsor  for  his  irreve- 
rence. In  Nietzschean  phrase,  Shaw  is  a  "  good  European."  He 
is  fully  abreast  of  the  most  advanced  thought  of  Europe,  and 
consistently  maintains  relations  with  the  latest  developments  in 
the  fine  arts,  philosophy,  and  sociology.  For  many  years,  he  has 
served  as  a  channel  for  the  influx  into  English-speaking  coun- 
tries of  the  streams  of  European  consciousness.  As  an  original 
thinker,  Shaw  has  independently  arrived  at  many  conclusions 
which  have  been  more  rigorously  elaborated  by  numerous  modern 
thinkers,  from  Stirner,  Nietzsche  and  Ibsen  to  Maeterlinck, 
Bergson  and  James.  As  the  literary  popularizer  of  contem- 
porary philosophic  ideas,  Bernard  Shaw  is  one  of  the  heralds  of 
that  steadily  evolving  spirit  of  cosmopolitan  culture  which  bids 
fair  to  give  the  intellectual  note  of  the  twentieth  century. 

In  this  hour  of  America's  great  national  resurgence  in  tht 

xvii 


PREFACE  TO  THE  AMERICAN  EDITION 

effort  to  purge  the  body  politic  of  glaring  social  evils,  it  is 
helpful  to  study  Bernard  Shaw  and  to  discover  that  his  most 
distinctive  and  noteworthy  service  as  a  public  character  has  been 
his  splendid  struggle  for  the  inculcation  of  the  highest  ideals 
of  unselfish  public  service.  England  far  surpasses  America  in 
the  relative  amount  of  public  service  rendered  by  individuals 
and  public  organizations  in  behalf  of  the  general  welfare,  with- 
out remuneration  or  the  hope  of  remuneration.  "  I  am  of  the 
opinion  that  my  life  belongs  to  the  whole  community,"  Bernard 
Shaw  has  finely  declared,  "  and  as  long  as  I  live  it  is  my  privi- 
lege to  do  for  it  whatsoever  I  can."  Only  when  individual 
leaders  of  opinion  in  America,  of  which  there  is  now  no  dearth, 
are  supported  everywhere  by  an  awakened  public  conscience  and 
a  universally  functioning  spirit  of  individual  responsibility,  shall 
we  secure  throughout  our  country,  from  hamlet  to  metropolis, 
the  much  desiderated  remedy  for  social  abuse  and  the  progressive 
perfecting  of  popular  government. 

Aechibald  Henderson. 
Salisbury,  N.  C,  September  4,  1911. 


xvm 


CONTENTS 

CHAPTER  PAGE 

Author's  Introduction v 

Preface xi 

Preface  to  the  American  Edition  xv 

I. — Dublin  Days 3 

II. — London .  31 

III. — The  Novelist 59 

IV.— The  Fabian  Society 89 

V. — The  Cart  and  Trumpet 121 

VI. — Shavian  Socialism 151 

VII.— The  Art  Critic 195 

VIII— The  Music  Critic 231 

IX.— The  Dramatic  Critic 261 

X. — The  Playwright — I 293 

XI. — The  Playwright — II 335 

XII.— The  Playwright— III 363 

^XIIL— The  Technician 409 

VXIV.— The  Dramatist 431 

XV. — Artist  and  Philosopher       .         .         .         .         .453 

XVI.— The  Man 491 

Appendix. — A  Genealogy  of  the  Shaw  Family. 


xix 


ILLUSTRATIONS 

COVER  DESIGN 


<.---- 


IX* 


A  Satyric  Mask.    From  an  original  in  the  Department  of  Greek 
and  Roman  Antiquities,  British  Museum. 

COLOURED  PLATES 
George    Bernard    Shaw.     Xumiere   autochrome,   by    Alvin 

Langdon  Cobum Frontispiece 

Ahenobarbus  at  Rehearsal.     Water-colour  of  G.  B.  Shaw, 

by  J.  Bernard  Partridge       ....  facing  p.     246 

PHOTOGRAVURE  PLATES 
George  Bernard  Shaw.     "  The  Diabolonian."    Monochrome 

by  Eduard  J.  Steichen facing  p.       80 

George  Bernard  Shaw.     "The  Philosopher."    Monochrome 

by  Alvin  Langdon  Cobum    .         .        .        .  facing  p.     468 

OTHER  ILLUSTRATIONS 
Shaw  and  the  biographer.     Photo  by  Mrs.  Bernard  Shaw 

facing  p.  viii 

Lucinda  Elizabeth  Shaw,  George  Carr  Shaw,  etc.            "  18 

Shaw  at  the  age  of  twenty-three                                         "  46  w 

Sidney  Webb "  92" 

Henry  George "  96 

Karl  Marx "  96 

Cover  of  Fabian  Tract,  No.  2           ....              p.  103 

The  Socialist  (George  Bernard  Shaw  in  1891)          .  facing  p.  116 v 

The  Cart  and  Trumpet "  144 

A  Study  of  Six  Socialists "  164 v 

Cover  design  of  Fabian  Essays,  1890.     By  Walter  Crane     p.  179 

Fitzroy  Square,  London facing  p.  196 

William  Morris "  211  ' 

George  Bernard  Shaw.      A  Cartoon.     By  Max 

Beerbohm         .        .        .                 .        .                 "  232 

Pope  Innocent  X "  262 

The  Modern  Pope  of  Wit  and  Wisdom.     By  Neville 

S.  Lytton "  262 

John  Bull's  other  Playwright.     A  Cartoon.     By  E. 

T.  Reed "  270 

xxi 


ILLUSTRATIONS 

William  Archer.     By  Jessie  Holliday  .         .         .  facing  p. 
Bernard  Shaw.     Black-and-white  wash  sketch  by 

Joseph  Simpson       ......" 

In  Consultation  (G.  B.  S.  and  the  author).     By  J§. 

J.  Steichen " 

H.  Granville  Barker.  By  A.  L.  Coburn  .  .  " 
Shaw's  House  at  Ayot  St.  Lawrence  ..." 
George  Bernard  Shaw.  Photo  by  Histed  .  .  " 
Shaw's  present  home  in  London  (10,  Adelphi  Terrace)  " 
A  plaster  bust  of  Shaw.  By  Troubetzkoy  .  .  " 
G.  B.  S.  (A  Cartoon).     By  Joseph  Simpson         .         .     p. 


A  bust  of  Shaw.     By  Rodin 
A  Prophet,  the  Press,  and  Some  People. 
water-colour  by  Jessie  Holliday 


.  facing  p. 


From  a 


276 

294/ 

336 

372' 

422 

436 

446 

480 

497 

500  v 

506 


FACSIMILES 


MANUSCRIPTS 

A  page  of  a  letter  from  Bernard  Shaw  to  the 

biographer facing  p.  vi 

The  first  and  last  pages  of  original  MS.  of  Love 

Among  the  Artists  .         .         .         .         .  pp.  65-66 


/ 


PLAYBILLS,  ETC. 

Sunday  Afternoon  Lectures.     March,  1886 

The  Philanderer.     Berlin 

Mrs.  Warren's  Profession.     Munich  . 

Arms  and  the  Man.    London.     First  performance 

You  Never  Can  Tell.    Stockholm 

The  Man  of  Destiny.     Frankfort 

Candida.     Paris 

Candida,     Brussels 

Man  and  Superman.     New  York 

Candida.     New  York 

The  Doctor's  Dilemma.     Cologne 

Arms  and  the  Man.     Frankfort 

Press  Cuttings.     London 


PAGE 

126 
301 
301 
311 
S26 
326 
349 
352 
365 
379 
395 
395 
403 


A  Genealogical  Chart 


facing  p.     514 


xxn 


DUBLIN  DAYS 


"If  religion  is  that  which  binds  men  to  one  another,  and  irreligiori  that 
which  sunders,  then  must  I  testify  that  I  found  the  religion  of  my  country 
in  its  musical  genius  and  its  irreligion  in  its  churches  and  drawing-rooms." 
— Ir\  the  Days  of  My  Youth.  By  Bernard  Shaw.  Mainly  About  People, 
1898. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW: 

HIS   LIFE  AND   WORKS 

CHAPTER  I 

IT  is  a  circumstance  of  no  little  significance  that  Bernard  Shaw 
and  Oscar  Wilde,  two  dramatists  whose  plays  have  achieved 
so  notable  a  success  on  the  European  stage,  should  both  have 
been  born  in  Dublin  within  two  years  of  one  another.  It  has 
been  the  good  fortune  of  no  other  living  British  or  Irish 
dramatist  of  our  day  to  receive  the  enthusiastic  acclaim  of  the 
most  cultured  public  of  continental  Europe.  What  more  fitting 
and  natural  than  this  sustention,  by  the  countrymen  of  Swift 
and  Sheridan,  of  the  Celtic  reputation  for  brilliancy,  clever- 
ness and  wit? 

George  Bernard  Shaw  was  born  on  July  26th,  1856 — well- 
nigh  a  century  later  than  his  countryman  and  fellow-townsman, 
Richard  Brinsley  Sheridan.  Only  one  year  before,  in  1855, 
was  born  Shaw's  sole  rival  to  the  place  of  the  foremost  living 
dramatist  of  the  United  Kingdom,  Arthur  Wing  Pinero.  It 
is  an  interesting  coincidence  that  the  year  which  saw  the  demise 
of  that  "  first  man  of  his  century,"  Heinrich  Heine,  also  wit- 
nessed the  birth  of  the  brilliant  and  original  spirit  who  is,  in 
some  sense,  his  natural  and  logical  successor:  Bernard  Shaw. 
There  is  some  suggestion  of  the  workings  of  that  wonderful  law 
of  compensation,  which  Emerson  preached  with  such  high  seri- 
ousness, in  this  synchronous  relation  of  birth  and  death,  con- 
necting Heine  and  Shaw.  The  circumstance  might  be  said  to 
proclaim  the  unbroken  continuity  of  the  comic  spirit. 

Bernard  Shaw  possesses  the  unique  faculty  of  befuddling  the 
brains  of  more  sane  writers  than  any  other  living  man.     The 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

critic  of  conventional  view-point  is  dismayed  by  the  discovery 
that  Shaw  is  bound  by  no  conventions  whatever,  with  the 
possible  exception  of  the  mechanical  conventions  of  the  stage. 
Shaw  is  essentially  an  intellectual,  not  an  emotional,  talent; 
the  critic  of  large  imaginative  sympathy  discovers  in  him  one 
who  on  occasion  disclaims  the  possession  of  imagination.  Unlike 
the  idealist  critic,  Shaw  is  never  a  hero-worshipper:  he  derides 
heroism  and  makes  game  of  humanity.  To  the  analytic  critic, 
with  his  schools,  his  classifications,  his  labellings,  Shaw  is  the 
elusive  and  unanalyzable  quantity — a  fantastic  original,  a  talent 
wholly  sui  generis.  With  all  his  realism,  he  cannot  be  called  the 
exponent  of  a  school.  It  would  be  nearer  the  truth  to  say  that 
he  is  himself  a  school. 

It  is  futile  to  attempt  to  measure  Shaw  with  the  foot-rule  of 
prejudice  or  convention.  Only  by  placing  oneself  exactly  at 
his  peculiar  point  of  view  and  recording  the  impressions  received 
without  prejudice,  preference  or  caricature,  can  one  ever  hope 
to  fathom  the  mystery  of  this  disquieting  intelligence.  Most 
mocking  when  most  serious,  most  fantastic  when  most  earnest; 
his  every  word  belies  his  intent.  The  antipode  to  the  farcicality 
of  pompous  dulness,  his  gravity  is  that  of  the  masquerader  in 
motley,  the  mordant  humour  of  the  licensed  fool.  Contradiction 
between  manner  and  meaning,  between  method  and  essence,  con- 
stitutes the  real  secret  of  his  career.  The  truly  noteworthy 
consideration  is  not  that  Shaw -is  incorrigibly  fantastic  and 
frivolous ;  the  alarming  fact  is  that  he  is  remarkably  consistent 
and  profoundly  in  earnest.  The  willingness  of  the  public  to 
accept  the  artist  at  his  face  value  blinds  its  eyes  to  the  profound, 
almost  grim,  seriousness  of  the  man.  The  great  solid  and 
central  fact  of  his  life  is  that  he  has  used  the  artistic  mask  of 
humour  to  conceal  the  unswerving  purpose  of  the  humanitarian  / 
and  social  reformer.  The  story  of  the  career  of  George  Bernard  * 
Shaw,  in  whom  is  found  the  almost  unprecedented  combination 
of  the  most  brilliantly  whimsical  humour  with  the  most  serious 
and  vital  purpose,  has  already,  even  in  our  time,  taken  on 
somewhat  of  the  character  of  a  legend.  It  might  become  a  fairy 
story,  in  very  fact,  if  we  did  not  finally  determine  to  relate  it, 
to  associate  it  in  printed  form  with  the  life  of  our  time. 

4 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

How  to  write  the  biography  of  so  complex  a  nature?  The 
greatest  living  English  dramatic  critic  once  confessed  that  he 
never  approached  a  more  difficult  task  than  that  of  interpretation 
of  Shaw's  plays.  One  of  Shaw's  most  intimate  friends  once 
suggested  that  the  title  of  his  biography  would  probably  be 
"  The  Court  Jester  who  was  Hanged." 

A  few  years  ago,  in  discussing  with  me  the  plan  of  his 
biography,  Mr.  Shaw  suggested  for  it  the  euphonious  if  jour- 
nalistic title — G.  B.  S.  Biography  and  Autobiography.  Though 
the  book  as  a  whole  is  not  developed  along  the  lines  originally 
suggested  sufficiently  to  render  that  title  truly  applicable,  for 
this  first  chapter  surely  none  could  be  more  suitable.  These 
"  Dublin  Days  "  have  been  reproduced  by  Shaw  with  much 
amplitude,  and  more  or  less  precision ;  so  that,  accepting  Shaw's 
definition  of  Autobiography  and  mine  of  Biography,  the  result 
will  be  a  narrative  of  much  falsehood  and  perhaps  a  little  truth. 

"  All  autobiographies  are  lies,"  is  Shaw's  fundamental  thesis. 
"  I  do  not  mean  unconscious,  unintentional  lies :  I  mean  delib- 
erate lies.  No  man  is  bad  enough  to  tell  the  truth  about  himself 
during  his  lifetime,  involving,  as  it  must,  the  truth  about  his 
family  and  friends  and  colleagues.  And  no  man  is  good  enough 
to  tell  the  truth  in  a  document  which  he  suppresses  until  there 
is  nobody  left  alive  to  contradict  him."  The  true,  the  real  auto- 
biography will  never  be  written ;  no  man,  no  woman — Rousseau, 
Marie  Bashkirtseff? — ever  dared  to  write  it.  Were  one  to 
attempt  to  write  the  book  entitled,  M y  Heart  Laid  Bare,  as 
Poe  says  somewhere  in  his  Margmalia,  "  the  paper  would  shrivel 
and  blaze  at  every  touch  of  the  fiery  pen."  Shaw  once  "  tried 
the  experiment,  within  certain  limits,  of  being  candidly  autobio- 
graphical." He  produced  no  permanent  impression,  because 
nobody  ever  believed  him;  but  the  extent  to  which  he  stood 
compromised  with  his  relations  may  well  be  imagined.  His  few 
confidential  reminiscences  won  him  the  reputation  of  being  the 
"  most  reckless  liar  in  London  " ;  they  reeked  too  strongly  of 
the  diabolism  mentioned  by  Poe.  And  yet  we  must  accept 
Shaw's  comically  irreverent  autobiographical  details,  in  view  of 
his  assertion  that  they  are  attempts  at  genuine  autobiography. 

In  the  autobiographical  accounts  of  his  youth  and  early  life, 

5 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

as  well  as  in  many  conversations  on  the  subject  with  Mr.  Shaw, 
I  have  discovered  ample  explanation  of  his  scepticism  concern- 
ing the  binding  ties  of  blood,  of  the  strangely  unsympathetic, 
even  hostile,  relations  between  parents  and  children  displayed 
throughout  his  entire  work.  These  autobiographical  accounts 
reveal  on  his  part  less  filial  affection  than  a  sort  of  comic  dis- 
respect for  the  mistakes,  faults  and  frailties  of  his  parents  and 
relatives. 

Mr.  Shaw's  grandfather  was  a  Dublin  notary  and  stockbroker, 
who  left  a  large  family  unprovided  for  at  his  death.  George 
Carr  Shaw,  his  son  and  Bernard  Shaw's  father,  was  an  Irish 
Protestant  gentleman;  his  rank — a  very  damnable  one  in  his 
son's  eyes — was  that  of  a  poor  relation  of  that  particular  grade 
of  the  haute  bourgeoisie  which  makes  strenuous  social  preten- 
sions. He  had  no  money,  it  seems,  no  education,  no  profession, 
no  manual  skill,  no  qualification  of  any  sort  for  any  definite 
social  function.  Moreover,  he  had  been  brought  up  "  to  believe 
that  there  was  an  inborn  virtue  of  gentility  in  all  Shaws,  since 
they  revolved  impecuniously  in  a  sort  of  vague  second  cousinship 
round  a  baronetcy."  His  people,  who  were  prolific  and 
numerous,  always  spoke  of  themselves  as  "  the  Shaws  "  with  an 
intense  sense  of  their  own  importance — as  one  would  speak  of  the 
Hohenzollerns  or  the  Romanoffs.  An  amiable,  but  timid  man, 
the  father's  worst  faults  were  inefficiency  and  hypocrisy.  His 
son  could  only  say  of  him  that  he  might  have  been  a  weaker 
brother  of  Charles  Lamb.  Proclaiming,  and  half  believing, 
himself  a  teetotaller,  he  was  in  practice  often  a  furtive  drinker. 
The  one  trait  of  his  which  was  reproduced  in  his  son,  his 
antithesis  in  almost  every  other  respect,  was  a  sense  of  humour, 
an  appreciation  of  the  comic  force  of  anti-climax.  "  When  I 
was  a  child,  he  gave  me  my  first  dip  in  the  sea  in  Killiney  Bay," 
writes  his  son.  "  He  prefaced  it  by  a  very  serious  exhortation 
on  the  importance  of  learning  to  swim,  culminating  in  these 
words :  '  When  I  was  a  boy  of  only  f  ourteeen,  my  knowledge  of 
swimming  enabled  me  to  save  your  Uncle  Robert's  life.'  Then, 
seeing  that  I  was  deeply  impressed,  he  stooped,  and  added  con- 
fidentially in  my  ear: '  And,  to  tell  the  truth,  I  never  was  so  sorry 
for  anything  in  my  life  afterwards.'    He  then  plunged  into  the 

6 


DUBLIN  DAYS 


ocean,  enjoyed  a  thoroughly  refreshing  swim,  and  chuckled  all 
the  way  home." 

All  the  Shaws,  because  of  that  remote  baronetcy,  Mr.  Shaw 
once  gravely  assured  me,  considered  it  the  first  duty  of  a  respect- 
able Government  to  provide  them  with  sinecures.  After  holding 
a  couple  of  clerkships,  Shaw's  father,  by  some  means,  finally 
asserted  his  family  claim  on  the  State  with  sufficient  success  to 
attain  a  post  in  the  Four  Courts — the  Dublin  Courts  of  Justice. 
This  post  in  the  Civil  Service  must  have  been  a  gross  sinecure, 
for  by  1850  it  was  abolished,  and  he  was  pensioned  off.  He  then 
sold  his  small  pension  and  went  into  business  as  a  wholesale 
dealer  in  corn,  a  business  of  which  he  had  not  the  slightest 
knowledge.  "  I  cannot  begin,  like  Ruskin,  by  saying  that  my 
father  was  an  entirely  honest  merchant,"  said  his  son  in  one  of 
his  autobiographical  confidences.  "  I  don't  know  whether  he 
was  or  not ;  I  do  know  that  he  was  an  entirely  unsuccessful  one." 
In  addition  to  a  warehouse  and  office  in  the  city,  he  had  a  flour 
mill  at  a  place  called  Dolphin's  Barn,  a  few  miles  out.  This 
mill,  attached  to  the  business  as  a  matter  of  ceremony,  perhaps 
paid  its  own  rent,  since  the  machinery  was  generally  in  motion. 
But  its  chief  use,  according  to  Bernard  Shaw,  "  was  to  amuse 
me  and  my  boon  companions,  the  sons  of  my  father's  partner." 

When  he  was  about  forty  years  of  age,  Shaw's  father  married 
Lucinda  Elizabeth  Gurly,  the  daughter  of  a  country  gentleman. 
Students  in  eugenics  might  find  in  their  disparity  in  age — a  dif- 
ference of  twenty  years— some  explanation  of  the  singular  quali- 
ties and  unique  genius  of  their  son.  The  estate  in  Carlow,  now 
owned  by  Mr.  Shaw,  descended  to  him  from  his  maternal  grand- 
father, Walter  Bagnal  Gurly,  through  his  mother's  brother. 
Miss  Gurly  was  brought  up  with  extreme  severity  by  her  ma- 
ternal aunt,  Ellen  Whitcroft,  a  sweet-faced  lady,  with  a 
deformed  back  and  a  ruthless  will,  who  gave  her  niece  the  most 
rigorous  training,  with  the  intention  of  subsequently  leaving  her 
a  fortune.  The  result  of  this  course  of  education  upon  Miss 
Gurly  was  ignorance  alike  of  the  value  of  money  and  of  the 
world;  her  marriage,  hastily  contracted  when  her  home  was 
made  uncomfortable  for  her  by  her  father's  second  marriage, 
gave  her  a  sufficient  knowledge  of  both.    Her  aunt,  angered  by 

7 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

this  unexpected  and  vexatious  conduct  on  the  part  of  this 
absurdly  inexperienced  young  woman,  her  erstwhile  paragon 
and  protegee,  summarily  disinherited  her.  In  many  ways,  Miss 
Gurly's  marriage  proved  a  disappointment.  Her  husband,  one 
of  the  most  impecunious  of  men,  was  far  too  poor  to  enable 
her  to  live  on  the  scale  to  which  she  had  been  accustomed. 
Indeed,  he  was  anything  but  a  satisfactory  husband  for  a  clever 
woman.  It  was  in  her  music  that  Mrs.  Shaw  found  solace  and 
comfort — a  refuge  from  domestic  disappointment. 

The  formative  influences  of  Shaw's  early  life  were  of  a  nature 
to  inculcate  in  him  that  disbelief  in  popular  education,  that 
disrespect  for  popular  religion,  and  that  contempt  for  social 
pretensions  which  are  so  deeply  ingrained  in  his  work  and 
character.  Is  it  any  wonder,  after  his  youthful  experience  with 
orthodox  religion,  that,  like  Tennyson,  he  cherished  a  contempt 
for  the  God  of  the  British:  "an  immeasurable  clergyman"? 
In  his  own  perverse  and  brilliant  way,  he  has  told  us  the  history 
of  his  progressive  revolt  against  the  religious  standards  of  his 
family : 

"  I  believe  Ireland,  as  far  as  the  Protestant  gentry  are 
concerned,  to  be  the  most  irreligious  country  in  the  world. 
I  was  christened  by  my  uncle;  and  as  my  godfather  was 
intoxicated  and  did  not  turn  up,  the  sexton  was  ordered 
to  promise  and  vow  in  his  place,  precisely  as  my  uncle 
might  have  ordered  him  to  put  more  coals  on  the  vestry 
fire.  I  was  never  confirmed,  and  I  believe  my  parents  never 
were  either.  The  seriousness  with  which  English  families 
take  this  rite,  and  the  deep  impression  it  makes  on  many 
children,  was  a  thing  of  which  I  had  no  conception.  Prot- 
estantism in  Ireland  is  not  a  religion ;  it  is  a  side  in  political 
faction,  a  class  prejudice,  a  conviction  that  Roman  Catholics 
are  socially  inferior  persons,  who  will  go  to  hell  when  they 
die,  and  leave  Heaven  in  the  exclusive  possession  of  ladies 
and  gentlemen.  In  my  childhood  I  was  sent  every  Sunday 
to  a  Sunday  school  where  genteel  children  repeated  texts, 
and  were  rewarded  with  little  cards  inscribed  with  other 
texts.     After  an  hour  of  this,  we  were  marched  into  the 

8 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

adjoining  church,  to  fidget  there  until  our  neighbours  must 
have  wished  the  service  over  as  heartily  as  we  did.  I  suf- 
fered this,  not  for  my  salvation,  but  because  my  father's 
respectability  demanded  it.  When  we  went  to  live  in  the 
country,  remote  from  social  criticism,  I  broke  with  the 
observance  and  never  resumed  it. 

"  What  helped  to  make  this  '  church '  a  hot-bed  of  all 
the  social  vices  was  that  no  working  folk  ever  came  to  it. 
In  England  the  clergy  go  among  the  poor,  and  sometimes 
do  try  desperately  to  get  them  to  come  to  church.  In 
Ireland  the  poor  are  Catholics — '  Papists,'  as  my  Orange 
grandfather  called  them.  The  Protestant  Church  has 
nothing  to  do  with  them.  Its  snobbery  is  quite  unmitigated. 
I  cannot  say  that  in  Ireland  every  man  is  the  worse  for 
what  he  calls  his  religion.  I  can  only  say  that  all  the 
people  I  knew  were." 

One  must  beware  of  the  error  of  exaggerating  the  influence  of 
Puritanism  upon  Shaw's  character  in  his  youth.  Mr.  Shaw 
has  laughed  consumedly  at  Mr.  Chesterton  for  speaking  of  his 
"  narrow,  Puritan  home."  A  little  incident  may  serve  to  reflect 
the  tone  of  the  heated  religious  controversies  that  went  on  in 
Mr.  Shaw's  home  when  he  was  a  lad.  Shaw's  father,  one  of 
his  maternal  uncles,  and  a  visitor  engaged  one  day  in  a  discus- 
sion over  the  raising  of  Lazarus.  Mr.  Shaw  held  the  evangelical 
view:  that  it  took  place  exactly  as  described.  The  visitor  was 
a  pure  sceptic,  and  dismissed  the  story  as  manifestly  impossible. 
But  Shaw's  uncle  described  it  as  a  put-up  job,  in  which  Jesus 
had  made  a  confederate  of  Lazarus — had  made  it  worth  his 
while,  or  asked  him  for  friendship's  sake  to  pretend  he  was  dead 
and  at  the  proper  moment  to  pretend  to  come  to  life.  "  Now 
imagine  me  as  a  little  child,"  said  Shaw  in  narrating  the  story, 
"  in  my  '  narrow,  Puritan  home,'  listening  to  this  discussion. 
I  listened  with  very  great  interest,  and  I  confess  to  you  that 
the  view  which  recommended  itself  most  to  me  was  that  of  my 
maternal  uncle,  and  I  think,  on  reflection,  you  will  admit  that 
that  was  the  right  and  healthy  point  of  view  for  a  boy  to  take, 
because  my  maternal  uncle's  view  appealed  to  a  sense  of  humour, 

9 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

which  is  a  very  good  thing  and  a  very  human  thing,  whereas 
the  other  two  views — one  appealing  to  my  mere  credulity  and 
the  other  to  mere  scepticism — really  did  not  appeal  to  any- 
thing at  all  that  had  any  genuine  religious  value.  .  .  .  Now 
that  was  really  the  tone  of  religious  controversy  at  that  time, 
and  it  almost  always  showed  us  the  barrenness  on  the  side  of 
religion  very  much  more  than  it  did  on  the  side  of  scepticism." 
This  anecdote  brings  irresistibly  to  mind  Mark  Twain's  story 
of  the  old  sea-captain  who  declared  that  Elijah  had  won  out 
in  the  altar  contest,  not  because  of  his  superiority  over  the 
other  prophets,  or  of  his  God  to  theirs,  but  because,  under  the 
pretence  that  it  was  water,  he  had  had  the  foresight  to  inundate 
his  altar  with — petroleum ! 

A  short  while  after  he  entered  a  land  office  in  Dublin  as  an 
employee,  a  position  secured  for  him  by  his  uncle,  Frederick 
Shaw,  a  high  official  in  the  Valuation  Office,  it  was  discovered 
that  the  young  Shaw,  then  in  his  teens,  instead  of  being  an 
extremely  correct  Protestant  and  churchgoer,  was  actually  what 
used  to  be  known  in  those  days  as  an  "  infidel."  Many  were 
the  arguments,  on  the  subject  of  religion  and  faith,  that  arose 
among  the  employees  of  the  firm,  arguments  that  usually  went 
hard  for  young  Shaw,  the  novice,  untrained  in  dialectic.  "  What 
is  the  use  of  arguing,"  one  of  the  apprentices,  Humphrey 
Lloyd,  said  to  Shaw  one  day,  "  when  you  don't  know  what  a 
syllogism  is?  "  As  he  once  told  me,  Mr.  Shaw  promptly  went 
and  found  out  what  it  was,  learning,  like  Moliere's  hero,  that 
he  had  been  making  syllogisms  all  his  life  without  knowing  it. 
Mr.  Uniacke  Townshend,  Shaw's  employer,  a  pillar  of  the  church 
— and  of  the  Royal  Dublin  Society — so  far  respected  his  free- 
dom of  conscience  as  to  make  no  attempt  to  reason  with  him, 
only  imposing  the  condition  that  the  subject  be  not  discussed  in 
the  office.  Although  secretly  chafing  under  the  restraint,  young 
Shaw  for  a  time  honourably  submitted  to  the  stern  limitation; 
but  an  outbreak  of  some  sort  was  inevitable.  The  immediate 
occasion  of  his  first  alarming  appearance  in  print  was  the  visit 
of  the  American  evangelists,  Moody  and  Sankey,  to  Dublin. 
Their  arrival  in  Great  Britain  created  a  considerable  sensation, 
*nd  young  Shaw  went  to  hear  them  when  they  came  to  Dublin. 

10 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

Not  only  was  he  wholly  unmoved  by  their  eloquence,  but  he 
actually  felt  bound  to  inform  the  public  that,  if  this  were 
Religion,  then  he  was,  on  the  whole,  an  Atheist.  Imagine  the 
extreme  horror  of  his  numerous  uncles  when  they  read  his  letter, 
solemnly  printed  in  Public  Opinion*  These  evangelistic  services, 
he  maintained,  "  were  not  of  a  religious,  but  a  secular,  not  to 
say  profane,  character."  Further,  he  said :  "  Respecting  the 
effect  of  the  revival  on  individuals  I  may  mention  that  it  has 
a  tendency  to  make  them  highly  objectionable  members  of 
society,  and  induces  their  unconverted  friends  to  desire  a 
speedy  reaction,  which  either  soon  takes  place  or  the  revived 
one  relapses  slowly  into  his  previous  benighted  condition  as  the 
effect  fades ;  and  although  many  young  men  have  been  snatched 
from  careers  of  dissipation  by  Mr.  Moody's  exhortations,  it 
remains  doubtful  whether  the  change  is  not  merely  in  the  nature 
of  the  excitement  rather  than  in  the  moral  nature  of  the  indi- 
vidual." 

The  complete  story  of  his  "  honest  doubts,"  and  his  con- 
scientious revolt  against  the  hollowness  and  inhuman  frigidity 
of  the  religion  he  saw  practised  around  him,  he  has  related  in  the 
most  ludicrously  irreverent  vein : 

"  When  I  was  a  little  boy,  I  was  compelled  to  go  to 
church  on  Sunday ;  and  though  I  escaped  from  that  intol- 

*  This  letter,  signed  "  S,"  appeared  in  Public  Opinion  on  April  3d,  1875. 
It  is  a  criticism  of  the  methods  adopted  by  Messrs.  Moody  and  Sankey, 
and  an  attempt  to  show  that  the  enormous  audiences  drawn  to  the  evange- 
listic services  were  not  proof  of  their  efficacy.  Shaw  then  proceeds  to 
explain  the  motives  which  induced  many  people  to  attend,  predominant 
among  them  being  "  the  curiosity  excited  by  the  great  reputation  of  the 
evangelists  and  the  stories,  widely  circulated,  of  the  summary  annihilation 
by  epilepsy  and  otherwise  of  sceptics  who  had  openly  proclaimed  their 
doubts  of  Mr.  Moody's  divine  mission."  This  letter  has  been  reprinted  in 
Public  Opinion,  November  8th,  1907. 

In  his  monograph  on  Shaw  (pp.  42-3),  Mr.  Holbrook  Jackson  has  pointed 
out  that  this  was  not  Shaw's  first  bid  for  publicity.  In  the  Vaudeville 
Magazine  of  September,  1871,  there  appeared  among  the  Editorial  Replies 
the  following:  "  G.  B.  Shaw,  Torca  Cottage,  Torca  Hill,  Dalkey,  Co.  Dub- 
lin, Ireland. — You  should  have  registered  your  letter;  such  a  combination 
of  wit  and  satire  ought  not  to  have  been  conveyed  at  the  ordinary  rate  of 
postage.  As  it  was,  your  arguments  were  so  weighty,  we  had  to  pay 
twopence  extra  for  them." 

11 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

erable  bondage  before  I  was  ten,  it  prejudiced  me  so  vio- 
lently against  church-going  that  twenty  years  elapsed 
before,  in  foreign  lands  and  in  pursuit  of  works  of  art,  I 
became  once  more  a  church-goer.  To  this  day,  my  flesh 
creeps  when  I  recall  that  genteel  suburban  Irish  Protestant 
church,  built  by  Roman  Catholic  workmen  who  would  have 
considered  themselves  damned  had  they  crossed  its  threshold 
afterwards.  Every  separate  stone,  every  pane  of  glass, 
every  fillet  of  ornamental  ironwork — half  dog-collar,  half- 
coronet — in  that  building  must  have  sowed  a  separate  evil 
passion  in  my  young  heart.  Yes;  all  the  vulgarity,  sav- 
agery, and  bad  blood  which  has  marred  my  literary  work, 
was  certainly  laid  up<Jn  me  in  that  house  of  Satan!  The 
mere  nullity  of  the  building  could  make  no  positive  im- 
pression on  me;  but  what  could,  and  did,  were  the  unnat- 
urally motionless  figures  of  the  congregation  in  their 
Sunday  clothes  and  bonnets,  and  their  set  faces,  pale  with 
the  malignant  rigidity  produced  by  the  suppression  of  all 
expression.  And  yet  these  people  were  always  moving  and 
watching  one  another  by  stealth,  as  convicts  communicate 
with  one  another.  So  was  I.  I  had  been  told  to  keep  my 
restless  little  limbs  still  all  through  the  interminable  hours ; 
not  to  talk ;  and,  above  all,  to  be  happy  and  holy  there  and 
glad  that  I  was  not  a  wicked  little  boy  playing  in  the  fields 
instead  of  worshipping  God.  I  hypocritically  acquiesced ; 
but  the  state  of  my  conscience  may  be  imagined,  especially 
as  I  implicitly  believed  that  all  the  rest  of  the  congregation 
were  perfectly  sincere  and  good.  I  remember  at  the  time 
dreaming  one  night  that  I  was  dead  and  had  gone  to 
Heaven.  The  picture  of  Heaven  which  the  efforts  of  the 
then  Established  Church  of  Ireland  had  conveyed  to  my 
childish  imagination,  was  a  waiting-room  with  walls  of  pale 
sky-coloured  tabbinet,  and  a  pew-like  bench  running  all 
round,  except  at  one  corner,  where  there  was  a  door.  I 
was,  somehow,  aware  that  God  was  in  the  next  room,  ac- 
cessible through  the  door.  I  was  seated  on  the  bench  with 
my  ankles  tightly  interlaced  to  prevent  my  legs  dangling, 
behaving  myself  with  all  my  might  before  the  grown-up 

12 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

people,  who  all  belonged  to  the  Sunday  congregation,  and 
were  either  sitting  on  the  bench  as  if  at  church  or  else 
moving  solemnly  in  and  out  as  if  there  were  a  dead  person 
in  the  house.  A  grimly-handsome  lady,  who  usually  sat  in 
a  corner  seat  near  me  in  church,  and  whom  I  believed  to 
be  thoroughly  conversant  with  the  arrangements  of  the 
Almighty,  was  to  introduce  me  presently  into  the  next 
room — a  moment  which  I  was  supposed  to  await  with  joy 
and  enthusiasm.  Really,  of  course,  my  heart  sank  like  lead 
within  me  at  the  thought ;  for  I  felt  that  my  feeble  affecta- 
tion of  piety  could  not  impose  on  Omniscience,  and  that 
one  glance  of  that  all-searching  eye  would  discover  that 
I  had  been  allowed  to  come  to  Heaven  by  mistake.  Unfor- 
tunately for  the  interest  of  th'  narrative,  I  woke,  or  wan- 
dered off  into  another  dream,  before  the  critical  moment 
arrived.  But  it  goes  far  enough  to  show  that  I  was  by  no 
means  an  insusceptible  subject;  indeed,  I  am  sure,  from 
other  early  experiences  of  mine,  that  if  I  had  been  turned 
loose  in  a  real  church,  and  allowed  to  wander  and  stare 
about,  or  hear  noble  music  there  instead  of  that  most 
accursed  i  Te  Deum '  of  Jackson's  and  a  senseless  droning 
of  the  '  Old  Hundredth,'  I  should  never  have  seized  the 
opportunity  of  a  great  evangelical  revival,  which  occurred 
to  me  when  I  was  still  in  my  teens,  to  begin  my  literary 
career  with  a  letter  to  the  Press,  announcing  with  inflexible 
materialistic  logic,  and  to  the  extreme  horror  of  my  respect- 
able connections,  that  I  was  an  atheist.  When,  later  on, 
I  was  led  to  the  study  of  the  economic  basis  of  the  respect- 
ability of  that  and  similar  congregations,  I  was  inex- 
pressibly relieved  to  find  that  it  represented  a  mere  phase  of 
industrial  confusion,  and  could  never  have  substantiated  its 
claims  to  my  respect,  if,  as  a  child,  I  had  been  able  to  bring 
it  to  book.  To  this  very  day,  whenever  there  is  the  slightest 
danger  of  my  being  mistaken  for  a  votary  of  the  blue 
tabbinet  waiting-room  or  a  supporter  of  that  morality  in 
which  wrong  and  right,  base  and  noble,  evil  and  good,  really 
mean  nothing  more  than  the  kitchen  and  the  drawing-room, 

13 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

I  hasten  to   claim  honourable  exemption,  as  atheist  and 
socialist,  from  any  such  complicity."  * 

The  lesson  of  the  selfishness  and  insincerity  of  society 
ineradicably  impressed  upon  Ibsen's  mind  in  his  childhood  days 
is  paralleled  by  a  similar  experience  in  the  youth  of  Shaw.  The 
ingrained  snobbery  of  society  as  he  saw  it,  the  contempt  for  those 
lower  in  social  pretensions,  if  not  in  social  station,  revolted  the 
lad's  whole  nature.  He  soon  became  animated  with  a  Carlylean 
contempt  for  the  snobbery  of  "  respectability  in  its  thousand 
gigs."  As  in  the  case  of  the  disconsolate  Stendhal,  Shaw  was 
not  long  in  discovering  that  his  family  revered  what  he  despised, 
and  detested  what  he  enthusiastically  admired.  An  incident  he 
relates,  in  illustration  of  this  trait  in  his  father,  serves  in  great 
measure  to  explain  Shaw's  scorn,  in  after  life,  of  the  blandish- 
ments of  the  drawing-room,  his  intolerance  of  fashionable 
society. 

"  One  evening  I  was  playing  on  the  street  with  a  school- 
fellow of  mine,  when  my  father  came  home.  He  ques- 
tioned me  about  this  boy,  who  was  the  son  of  a  prosperous 
ironmonger.  The  feelings  of  my  father,  who  was  not  pros- 
perous and  who  sold  flour  by  the  sack,  when  he  learned  that 
his  son  had  played  on  the  public  street  with  the  son  of 
a  man  who  sold  nails  by  the  pennyworth  in  a  shop  are  not 
to  be  described.  He  impressed  on  me  that  my  honour,  my 
self-respect,  my  human  dignity,  all  stood  upon  my  deter- 
mination not  to  associate  with  persons  engaged  in  retail 
trade.  Probably  this  was  the  worst  crime  my  father  ever 
committed.  And  yet  I  do  not  see  what  else  he  could  have 
taught  me,  short  of  genuine  republicanism,  which  is  the 
only  possible  school  of  good  manners. 

"  Imagine  being  taught  to  despise  a  workman,  and  to 
respect  a  gentleman,  in  a  country  where  every  rag  of  excuse 
for  gentility  is  stripped  off  by  poverty !     Imagine  being 

*  On  Going  to  Church.  This  essay  appeared  originally  in  the  Savoy 
Magazine,  January,  1896;  it  is  now  published  in  book  form  by  John  W. 
Luce  and  Co.,  Boston,  Mass. 

U 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

taught  that  there  is  one  God — a  Protestant  and  a  perfect 
gentleman — keeping  Heaven  select  for  the  gentry;  and  an 
idolatrous  impostor  called  the  Pope,  smoothing  the  hell- 
ward  way  for  the  mass  of  the  people,  only  admissible  into 
the  kitchens  of  most  of  the  aforesaid  gentry  as  '  thorough 
servants  '  (general  servants)  at  eight  pounds  a  yearl  Im- 
agine the  pretensions  of  the  English  peerage  on  the  incomes 
of  the  English  lower  middle-class.  I  remember  Stopford 
Brooke  one  day  telling  me  that  he  discerned  in  my  books 
an  intense  and  contemptuous  hatred  for  society.  No 
wonder !  though,  like  him,  I  strongly  demur  to  the  usurpa- 
tion of  the  word  '  society  '  by  an  unsocial  system  of  setting 
class  against  class  and  creed  against  creed."  * 

As  to  education,  in  the  ordinary  sense,  the  lad  had  none:  he 
never  learned  anything  at  school.  He  found  no  incentive  to 
study  under  the  tutelage  of  people  who  put  Ccesar  and  Horace 
into  the  hands  of  small  boys  and  expected  the  result  to  be  an 
elegant  taste  and  knowledge  of  the  world.  His  first  teacher  was 
his  uncle,  the  Rev.  William  George  Carroll,  Vicar  of  St.  Bride's, 
Dublin — reputed  the  first  Protestant  clergyman  in  Ireland  to 
declare  for  Home  Rule.  We  have  one  brief  but  comprehensive 
glimpse  of  his  school  life  at  this  period  of  immaturity :  "  The 
word  education  brought  to  my  mind  four  successive  schools 
where  my  parents  got  me  out  of  the  way  for  half  a  day.  In 
these  creches — for  that  is  exactly  what  they  were — I  learned 
nothing.  How  I  could  have  been  such  a  sheep  as  to  go  to  them, 
when  I  could  just  as  easily  have  flatly  refused,  puzzles  and 
exasperates  me  to  this  day.  They  did  me  a  great  deal  of  harm, 
and  no  good  whatever.  However,  my  parents  thought  I  ought 
to  go,  being  too  young  to  have  any  confidence  in  my  own 
instincts.  So  I  went.  And  if  you  can  in  any  public  way  convey 
to  these  idiotic  institutions  my  hearty  curse,  you  will  relieve 
my  feelings  infinitely.  .  .  .  As  a  schoolboy  I  was  incorrigibly 
idle  and  worthless.  And  I  am  proud  of  the  fact."  In  the 
preface  to  John  BulVs  Other  Island,  Shaw  has  referred  in  par- 

*  In  the  Days  of  My  Youth.  By  Bernard  Shaw.  Mainly  About  Peo- 
ple, 1898. 

15 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

ticular  to  the  Wesleyan  Connexional  School,  now  Wesley  Col- 
lege, Dublin.  Here  the  Wesleyan  catechism  was  taught  without 
protest  to  pupils,  the  majority  of  whom  were  Church  (Protes- 
tant Irish)  boys !  So  long  as  their  sons  were  taught  genuine 
Protestantism,  the  parents  didn't  bother  about  the  particular 
brand.  The  school's  most  famous  alumni  are  Sir  Robert  Hart 
and  Bernard  Shaw.  In  the  school  roll-book  Shaw  is  entered  for 
the  first  time  as  attending  on  April  13th,  1867.  Unfortunately, 
only  a  bare  record  of  his  class  marks  is  given.  "  He  seems  to 
have  been  generally  near  or  at  the  bottom  of  his  classes,"  said 
the  principal,  the  Rev.  William  Crawford,  in  a  letter  to  me  of 
date  August  6th,  1909 ;  "  but,  perhaps  typically  of  the  man,  he 
jumped  up  suddenly  to  second  place  once  in  his  first  quarter, 
and  does  not  seem  to  have  aspired  again.  He  was  entered  in 
the  '  First  Latin  Class,'  I  suppose  the  most  junior  division  on 
the  classical  side."  Shaw  sat  in  class  between  a  classic  and  a 
mathematician,  both  in  after  years  distinguished  scholars.  Each 
did  his  appropriate  share  of  young  Shaw's  work.  In  return 
Shaw  would  narrate  for  their  delectation,  according  to  the 
account  of  one  of  the  twain,  numerous  stories  from  the  Iliad 
and  Odyssey,  in  his  own  peculiar  and  inimitable  vein.  Shaw 
was  only  in  his  tenth  year  when  he  entered  the  Wesleyan  Con- 
nexional School ;  and  in  that  year  Dr.  H.  R.  Parker,  of  Trinity 
College,  Dublin,  was  head  master  and  Rev.  T.  A.  McKee  was 
governor.  Apparently,  no  picture  of  the  old  school  now  exists ; 
the  new  building  stands  near,  but  not  on,  the  site  of  the  old 
school.* 

It  might  be  imagined,  from  the  evidence  of  Shaw's  own  con- 
fessions just  detailed,  that  it  was  impossible  for  a  boy  who  "  took 
refuge  in  idleness  "  at  school  to  acquire  any  sort  of  an  educa- 
tion; but  such  a  supposition  is  very  wide  of  the  mark.  The 
discipline  he  received  at  home,  the  discipline  of  laissez  faire  et 
laissez  alter ,  which  might  have  spoiled  the  average  boy,  had  just 
the  opposite  effect  upon  this  strangely  inquisitive,  alarmingly 
self-assertive  child.  If  he  lost  somewhat  in  youthful  gentleness 
and  tenderness,  he  gained  greatly  in  manly  determination  and 

*  Compare  Jubilee  of  Wesley  College,  Dublin,  December,  1895 — being  a 
special  number  of  the  Wesley  College  Quarterly. 

16 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

independence.  If  he  was  never  treated  as  a  child,  at  least  he 
was  let  do  what  he  liked.  Thus  the  habit  of  freedom,  which,  as 
he  once  assured  me,  most  Englishmen  and  Englishwomen  of 
his  class  never  acquire,  came  to  him  naturally. 

One  might  say  of  Shaw's  mother  that  she  was  the  antithesis 
of  Candida  on  the  domestic  plane.  In  many  respects  she  was 
a  forerunner  of  the  "  new  woman  "  of  our  own  day — inde- 
pendent, self-reliant,  indifferent  to  public  opinion.  She  was,  in 
her  son's  phrase,  "  constitutionally  unfitted  for  the  sentiment  of 
wifehood  and  motherhood " ;  her  genuine  energy  and  talents 
were  bestowed  almost  undividedly  upon  music.  Not  long  after 
her  marriage  to  Mr.  Shaw,  she  became  the  right  hand  of  an 
energetic  genius,  who  had  formed  a  musical  society  and  an 
orchestra  in  Dublin.  These  organizations  were  composed  wholly 
of  amateurs — and  unavoidably  so — in  view  of  the  state  of 
musical  activity  in  Dublin  at  the  time.  By  all  the  local  pro- 
fessors of  music  this  energetic  genius  and  man  of  successful 
ambitions,  George  John  Vandaleur  Lee,  was  held  in  the  greatest 
contempt,  even  hatred,  because  he  had  repudiated  their  tradi- 
tions, and  thereby  actually  trained  himself  to  become  an  effective 
teacher  of  singing.  Through  actual  dissection,  as  well  as  by 
practical  singing,  he  studied  the  anatomy  of  the  throat  until 
he  was  able,  by  watching  and  hearing  a  singer,  to  state  with 
certainty  the  exact  nature  of  the  physical  processes  going  on. 
From  Badeali,  an  Italian  opera  singer,  who  preserved  a  splendid 
voice  to  a  great  age,  he  learned  the  secret  of  voice  preservation. 
This  method  he  taught  to  Mrs.  Shaw  so  successfully  that  when 
she  gave  up  singing,  late  in  life,  it  was  not  because  her  voice 
failed  her,  but  because  her  age  made  singing  ridiculous.* 

*  Lee  continued  steadily  to  advance  in  his  profession,  becoming  suc- 
cessively music-teacher,  opera-conductor,  festival  conductor,  and  finally 
fashionable  teacher  of  singing  in  Park  Lane,  London.  He  accomplished 
everything  that  he  undertook,  even  conducting  a  Handel  Festival  in 
Dublin,  participated  in  by  Tietjens,  Agnesi,  and  other  leading  singers  of 
the  day.  For  several  years  he  enjoyed  great  popularity  in  London  as  a 
teacher  of  music.  When  he  died,  quite  suddenly,  at  his  home  in  Park 
Lane,  it  was  discovered,  Shaw  afterwards  remarked,  that  he  had  ex- 
hausted his  stock  of  health  in  his  Dublin  period,  and  that  the  days  of  his 
vanity  in  London  were  days  of  progressive  decay. 

17 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Lee's  twofold  influence  upon  the  young  Shaw — indirectly 
through  Mrs.  Shaw's  musical  activities,  and  directly  through  the 
inspiration  of  his  personal  character,  one  of  phenomenal  com- 
petence and  unswerving  determination — is  very  markedly  visible 
in  the  Shaw  of  after  years,  the  brilliant  musical  critic  and  the 
doggedly  persistent  seeker  after  worthy  success  and  merited 
fame.  Mrs.  Shaw  studied  singing  under  Lee,  and  thorough  bass 
under  Logier.  She  assisted  Lee  in  all  his  various  and  varied 
enterprises,  copying  orchestral  parts  and  scoring  songs  for  him. 
She  led  the  chorus  for  him  at  the  musical  society;  and  at  dif- 
ferent times  she  appeared  in  operas  produced  and  directed  by 
Lee,  playing  Azucena  in  II  Trovatore,  Donna  Anna  in  Don 
Giovanni,  Margaret  in  Gounod's  Faust,  and  Lucrezia  Borgia  in 
Donizetti's  opera  of  that  name.  Finally,  in  order  to  facilitate 
matters,  Mrs.  Shaw  kept  house  for  Lee  by  setting  up  a  joint 
household,  a  sort  of  "  blameless  menage  a  trots  " — the  phrase 
her  son  used  in  speaking  of  it  to  me — which  lasted  until  1872, 
the  year  of  Lee's  departure  for  London. 

As  all  these  operas  were  rehearsed  at  his  home,  it  was  only 
natural  that  Bernard  Shaw  should  pick  up,  quite  unconsciously, 
indeed,  a  knowledge  of  that  extraordinary  literature  of  modern 
music,  from  Bach  to  Wagner,  with  which  his  mother  and  Lee 
were  so  familiar.  While  he  was  yet  a  small  boy,  he  whistled  and 
sang,  from  the  first  bar  to  the  last,  not  only  the  operas  he 
frequently  heard,  but  also  the  many  oratorios  rendered  from 
time  to  time  by  the  musical  society.  Indeed,  Mr.  Shaw  once 
remarked  that,  besides  their  respectability,  the  chief  merit  of  his 
family  was  a  remarkable  aptitude  for  playing  all  sorts  of  wind 
instruments  by  ear,  even  his  father  playing  "  Home,  Sweet 
Home  "  upon  the  flute.  Before  he  was  fifteen,  Bernard  Shaw 
knew  at  least  one  important  work  by  Handel,  Mozart,  Bee- 
thoven, Mendelssohn,  Rossini,  Bellini,  Donizetti,  Verdi  and 
Gounod  from  cover  to  cover.  Not  only  did  he  whistle  the 
themes  to  himself  as  a  street  boy  whistles  music-hall  songs,  but 
he  also  sang  incessantly,  to  himself  and  for  himself,  opera  and 
oratorio,  in  an  "  absurd  gibberish  which  was  Italian  picked  up 
by  ear — and  Irish  Italian  at  that."  No  one  ever  taught  him 
music  in  his  youth,  but  when  he  grew  up,  although  he  had  a 

18 


Lucinda  Elizabeth 

(Gurly)  Shaw. 


I  A 


George  Carr 
Shaw. 


George  John  Vandaleur  Lee. 

Reproduced  from  a  copy,    by   Bernard  Shaw,   of    the    original    photograph    by    Richard 
Pigott.   forger  of   the   Parnell   letters.       Taken   in    1  863. 


IFacing  p.  18 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

very  indifferent  voice,  he  took  some  singing  lessons  under  his» 
mother.  At  first,  he  found  that  he  could  not  make  a  rightly 
produced  sound  that  was  audible  two  yards  off.  But  he  learned 
readily,  under  the  competent  instruction  of  his  mother,  and 
now  his  voice,  "  a  commonplace  baritone  of  the  most  ordinary 
range,  B  flat  to  F,  and  French  pitch  preferred  for  the  F,"  is 
distinguished  rather  by  audibility  than  in  any  other  respect. 
It  is  noteworthy  that  the  lessons  he  learned  from  his  mother — 
the  secrets  of  breathing  and  enunciation — proved  of  incalculable 
value  to  him  afterwards  on  the  platform,  in  the  strenuous  days 
of  his  dialectical  warfare. 

Although  Bernard  Shaw  idled  away  his  time  at  school,  the 
very  real  education  he  received  through  other  broader  and  ^ 
deeper  channels  has  since  saved  him,  he  stoutly  maintains,  from 
being  "  at  the  smallest  disadvantage  with  men  who  only  know 
the  grammar  and  mispronunciation  of  the  Greek  and  Latin  poets 
and  philosophers."  The  other  great  motor  of  educational 
influence  in  his  youth  was  the  National  Gallery  of  Ireland;  to 
that  cherished  asylum^  which  he  haunted  in  the  days  of  his 
youth,  he  has  often  expressed  his  unmeasured  gratitude.  When- 
ever he  had  any  money,  he  bought  volumes  of  the  Bohn  trans- 
lation of  Vasari ;  and  at  fifteen  he  knew  enough  of  a  considerable 
number  of  Italian  and  Flemish  painters  to  recognize  their  work 
at  sight.  His  communion  with  the  masterpieces  preserved  in 
the  Dublin  Gallery  was  so  solitary  that  he  was  once  driven  to 
say,  with  comically  extravagant  egoism,  that  he  believed  he  was 
the  only  Irishman,  except  the  officials,  who  had  ever  been  there. 
This  acquaintance  with  art  and  the  history  of  art  "  did  more 
for  him,"  he  once  asserted,  than  the  two  cathedrals  in  Dublin 
so  magnificently  "  restored  "  out  of  the  profits  of  the  drink 
trade.  I  think  we  must  conclude,  with  the  ever  modest  auto- 
biographer,  that,  thanks  to  communism  in  pictures,  he  was  really 
a  very  highly  educated  boy. 

Through  lack  of  means,  the  Shaws  were  unable  to  give  their 
son  a  university  education;  perhaps  no  regret  need  be  felt  on 
this  score,  since  it  is  not  unlikely,  in  view  of  his  attitude  towards 
a  university  education,  that  he  would  have  taken  refuge  in 
idleness  at  Oxford,  Cambridge,  or  Dublin,  just  as  he  had  done 

19 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

at  the  schools  he  had  already  attended.  Unlike  his  future  col- 
leagues in  dramatic  criticism,  William  Archer  and  Arthur 
Bingham  Walkley,  graduates  of  Edinburgh  and  Oxford  re- 
spectively, Shaw  despised,  half  ignorantly,  half  penetratingly, 
the  thought  of  a  university  education,  for  it  seemed  to  him  to 
turn  out  men  who  all  thought  alike  and  were  snobs.  So  in  1871, 
at  the  age  of  fifteen,  he  entered  the  office  of  an  Irish  land  agent, 
Mr.  Charles  Uniacke  Townshend,  and  remained  there  until 
March,  1876.  Perhaps  the  Ibsenite,  the  Nietzschean  of  after 
years  was  thus  beginning  a  course  of  preliminary  training: 
Henri  Beyle  used  to  say  that  to  have  been  a  banker  was  to  have 
gone  through  the  best  preparatory  school  for  philosophy. 
During  this  period  Bernard  Shaw  lived  in  lodgings  in  Dublin 
with  his  father,  who  had  by  this  time  given  up  that  furtive 
drinking,  of  which  his  son  in  after  life  spoke  with  such  frank 
levity.  The  lad's  salary  at  first  was  eighteen  pounds  a  year, 
his  position  that  of  junior  clerk.  He  had  no  fondness  for  his 
work,  and  took  no  interest  in  land  agency ;  nevertheless,  he  made 
a  very  satisfactory  clerk.  At  the  end  of  about  a  year,  a  sudden 
vacancy  occurred  in  the  most  active  post  in  the  office,  that  of 
cashier.  As  this  involved  a  sort  of  miniature  banking  business 
for  the  clients,  and  the  daily  receipt  and  payment  of  all  sorts 
of  rents,  interests,  insurances,  private  allowances  and  so  on,  it 
was  a  comparatively  busy  post,  and  a  position  of  trust  besides. 
The  junior  clerk  was  temporarily  called  upon  to  fill  the  sudden 
vacancy  pending  the  engagement  of  a  new  cashier  of  greater 
age  and  experience.  He  performed  his  numerous  duties  so  suc- 
cessfully that  the  engagement  of  the  new  man  was  first  delayed 
and  then  dropped.  The  child  of  fifteen,  laboriously  and  suc- 
cessfully struggling  to  change  his  sloped,  straggly,  weak- 
minded  handwriting  into  a  fair  imitation  of  his  predecessor's,  is 
father  of  the  man  of  forty,  carefully  drawing  up  elaborate 
contracts  with  theatre  managers,  who  never  kept  them.  By 
this  initial  exhibition  of  enterprise,  young  Shaw's  salary,  now 
twenty-four  pounds  a  year,  was  doubled,  which  meant  a  consid- 
erable step  ahead.  The  clear-cut  chirography  of  the  Shaw  of 
to-day  and  the  neatness  of  arrangement  so  noticeable  in  his 
apartments  at  Adelphi  Terrace  are  the  results  of  his  early  train- 

20 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

ing ;  indeed,  he  was  a  remarkably  correct  cashier  and  accountant, 
as  one  of  Mr.  Shaw's  colleagues  in  the  office  once  told  me. 
While  he  was  always  ignorant  of  the  state  of  his  own  finances, 
and  to-day  troubles  little  about  his  personal  accounts,  he  was 
never  a  farthing  out  in  his  accounts  at  the  office. 

Land  agency  in  Ireland  was,  and  is  still,  a  socially  pretentious 
business.  Although  the  position  Shaw  held  was  regarded  as  a 
very  genteel  sort  of  post,  yet  to  him  this  was  no  gratification, 
but  quite  the  reverse.  It  was  saturated  with  a  class  feeling  for 
which,  even  at  that  time,  he  had  an  intense  loathing.  The  posi- 
tion carried  with  it,  nevertheless,  certain  obvious  advantages. 
It  secured  for  him  the  society  of  a  set  of  so-called  apprentices, 
who  were,  in  fact,  idle  young  gentlemen  who  had  paid  a  big 
premium  to  be  taught  a  genteel  profession.  Though  the 
premium  was  not  paid  to  Shaw,  still  he  took  delight  in  teaching 
his  co-workers  various  operatic  scenas,  which  were  occasionally 
in  full  swing  when  the  principal  or  a  customer  would  enter  the 
office  unexpectedly.  On  one  occasion,  Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me 
gleefully,  a  certain  apprentice  sang:  "Ah,  che  la  morte  "  in  his 
tower — standing  on  the  washstand  with  his  head  appearing  over 
a  tall  screen — with  such  feeling  and  such  obliviousness  to  all 
external  events,  that  the  whole  office  force  was  suddenly  struck 
busy  and  silent  by  the  arrival  of  Mr.  Townshend,  the  senior 
partner,  who  stared,  stupended,  at  the  bleating  countenance 
above  the  screen  and  finally  fled  upstairs,  completely  beaten  by 
the  situation.  The  young  clerk  thus  found  plenty  of  fun  and 
diversion  in  his  association  with  young  men  of  culture  and 
education;  this  did  not  make  him  hate  his  work  any  the  less. 
His  natural  antipathy  to  respectability  asserted  itself  very 
early  in  his  career:  he  once  said  that  land  agency  was  too  re- 
spectable for  him.  Moreover,  the  enforced  repression  concern- 
ing his  religious  beliefs  bred  in  him  a  spirit  of  discontent  and 
revolt.  Although  he  realized  that  silence  on  the  subject  was 
undoubtedly  an  indispensable  condition  of  sociability  among 
people  who  disagreed  strongly  on  such  a  matter,  yet  he  chafed 
under  the  restraint.  To  such  a  restraint  he  felt  he  could  never 
permanently  submit.  This  incident  alone  would  have  had  the 
ultimate  effect  of  making  him  a  bad  employee.    Fortunately  for 

21 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  world,  it  put  land  agency  and  business  as  a  serious  career 
out  of  the  question  for  him.  The  author  of  Widowers9  Houses 
collecting  rents  as  a  lifelong  profession  is  a  ludicrous,  an  in- 
credible incongruity.  Shaw  retained  his  place  simply  for  the 
sake  of  financial  independence.  When  he  gave  up  his  position, 
his  employer  was  sorry  to  lose  him,  and,  at  the  request  of 
Shaw's  father,  readily  gave  him  a  handsome  testimonial.  In 
speaking  of  the  circumstance  one  day,  Mr.  Shaw  told  me  that 
he  was  furious  that  such  a  demand  should  have  been  made. 
Nothing  could  have  shown  more  clearly  his  distaste  for  the  posi- 
tion he  held.  "  Once  or  twice,"  commented  Mr.  Shaw,  "  my 
employer  showed  himself  puzzled  and  annoyed  when  some  acci- 
dent lifted  the  veil  for  a  moment  and  gave  him  a  glimpse  of 
the  fact  that  his  excellent  and  pecuniarily  incorruptible  clerk's 
mind  and  interest  and  even  intelligence  were  ten  thousand 
leagues  away,  in  a  region  foreign,  if  not  hostile."  Surely  this 
was  another  age  of  "  inspired  office  boys."  * 

In  1872,  Mr.  Lee  left  Dublin  for  London,  the  joint  household 
broke  up,  and  all  musical  activity  ceased.  The  return  to  a  single 
household  on  Mr.  Shaw's  income  was  all  but  impossible,  for  his 
affairs  were  as  unprosperous  as  ever.  At  this  time  there  was 
even  some  question  of  Bernard  Shaw's  two  sisters  becoming 
professional  singers.  With  characteristic  energy  and  decisive- 
ness, Mrs.  Shaw  boldly  cut  the  Gordian  knot  by  going  to  London 
and  becoming  a  professional  teacher  of  singing.  This  domestic 
debacle  robbed  young  Shaw  of  his  mother's  influence,  which  was 
always  stimulating  and  inspiring,  if  somewhat  indirectly  and 
impersonally  so.  It  deprived  him  also  of  music,  which,  up  to 
that  time,  had  been  his  daily  food.  This  sudden  deprivation  of 
the  solace  of  music  came  to  him  as  a  distinct  surprise.  He  had 
never  dreamed  of  such  a  contingency.     Fortunately  the  piano 

*  In  speaking  of  his  apprenticeship  as  a  clerk  in  the  land  office,  Shavr 
declares :  "  I  should  have  been  there  still  if  I  had  not  broken  loose  in 
defiance  of  all  prudence,  and  become  a  professional  man  of  genius — a 
resource  not  open  to  every  clerk.  I  mention  this  to  show  that  the  fact 
that  I  am  not  still  a  clerk  may  be  regarded  for  the  purposes  of  this  article 
as  a  mere  accident.  I  am  not  one  of  those  successful  men  who  can  say, 
'Why  don't  you  do  as  I  do?'" — From  Bernard  Shaw  as  a  Clerk.  By 
Himself  in  The  Clerk,  January,  1908. 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

remained.  Although  he  had  never  until  then  touched  it  except 
to  pick  out  a  tune  with  one  finger,  he  now  set  to  work  in  earnest 
to  learn  the  art  of  piano  playing.  It  was  in  a  spirit  of  despera- 
tion that  he  went  out  and  bought  a  technical  handbook  of  music, 
containing  a  diagram  of  the  keyboard.  No  finger  exercises,  no 
etudes  de  velocite  for  Shaw:  he  at  once  got  out  Don  Giovanni 
and  tried  to  play  the  overture!  It  took  him  ten  minutes  to 
arrange  his  fingers  on  the  notes  of  the  first  chord.  "  What  I 
suffered,  what  everybody  in  the  house  suffered,  whilst  I  struggled 
on,  labouring  through  arrangements  of  Beethoven's  symphonies, 
of  Tannhauser,  and  of  all  the  operas  and  oratorios  I  knew,  will 
never  be  told."  It  was  in  vain  now,  he  said,  merely  to  sing: 
"  my  native  wood-notes  wild — just  then  breaking  frightfully — 
could  not  satisfy  my  intense  craving  for  the  harmony  which  is 
the  emotional  substance  of  music,  and  for  the  rhythmic  figures 
of  accompaniment  which  are  its  action  and  movement.  I  had 
only  a  single  splintering  voice,  and  I  wanted  an  orchestra." 
This  musical  starvation  it  was  that  drove  him  to  the  piano  in 
disregard  of  the  rights  of  his  fellow-lodgers. 

"  At  the  end  of  some  months  I  had  acquired  a  technique  of 
my  own,  as  a  sample  of  which  I  may  offer  my  fingering  of  the 
scale  of  C  major.    Instead  of  shifting  my  hand  by  turning 

CDEFGABC 
the  thumb  under  and  fingering  1231234  5, 1  passed 
my  fourth  finger  over  my  fifth, 

CDEFGABC 
and  played  1234545  4. 

This  method  has  the  advantage  of  being  applicable  to  all 
scales,  diatonic  or  chromatic,  and  to  this  day  I  often  fall 
back  on  it.  Liszt  and  Chopin  hit  on  it  too,  but  they  never 
used  it  to  the  extent  I  did.  I  soon  acquired  a  terrible  power 
of  stumbling  through  pianoforte  arrangements  and  vocal 
scores;  and  my  reward  was  that  I  gained  penetrating 
experiences  of  Victor  Hugo  and  Schiller  from  Donizetti, 
Verdi,  and  Beethoven;  of  the  Bible  from  Handel;  of 
Goethe  from  Schumann  ;  of  Beaumarchais  and  Moliere  from 

23 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Mozart;  and  of  Merimee  from  Bizet,  besides  finding  in 
Berlioz  an  unconscious  interpreter  of  Edgar  Allan  Poe. 
When  I  was  in  the  schoolboy  adventure  vein,  I  could  range 
from  Vincent  Wallace  to  Meyerbeer ;  and  if  I  felt  piously 
and  genteelly  sentimental,  I,  who  could  not  stand  the  pic- 
tures of  Ary  SchefFer  or  the  genteel  suburban  sentiment  of 
Tennyson  and  Longfellow,  could  become  quite  maudlin  over 
Mendelssohn  and  Gounod.  And,  as  I  searched  all  the  music 
I  came  across  for  the  sake  of  its  poetic  or  dramatic  content, 
and  played  the  pages  in  which  I  found  poetry  or  drama 
over  and  over  again,  whilst  I  never  returned  to  those  in 
which  the  music  was  trying  to  exist  ornamentally  for  its 
own  sake  and  had  no  real  content  at  all,  it  soon  followed 
that  when  I  came  across  the  consciously  perfect  art  work 
in  the  music  dramas  of  Wagner,  I  ran  no  risk  of  hopelessly 
misunderstanding  it  as  the  academic  musicians  did.  In- 
deed, I  soon  found  that  they  equally  misunderstood  Mozart 
and  Beethoven,  though,  having  come  to  like  their  tunes  and 
harmonies,  and  to  understand  their  mere  carpentry,  they 
pointed  out  what  they  supposed  to  be  their  merits  with  an 
erroneousness  far  more  fatal  to  their  unfortunate  pupils 
than  the  volley  of  half -bricks  with  which  they  greeted  Wag- 
ner (who,  it  must  be  confessed,  retaliated  with  a  volley  of 
whole  ones  fearfully  well  aimed)."  * 

Although  he  did  a  good  deal  of  accompanying,  especially  in 
the  days  of  his  intimacy  with  the  Salt  family,  he  never  really 
mastered  the  instrument.  Once,  in  a  desperate  emergency,  he 
supplied  the  place  of  the  absent  half  of  the  orchestra  at  a  per- 
formance of  II  Trovatore  at  a  People's  Entertainment  evening 
at  the  Victoria  Theatre — and,  luckily,  came  off  without  disaster. 
To-day  he  goes  to  his  little  Bechstein  piano,  a  relic  of  the  first 
Arts  and  Crafts  Exhibition,  and  fearlessly  attacks  any  opera  or 
symphony.  He  is  his  own  Melba,  his  own  Plancon,  too,  thanks, 
as  his  wife  pathetically  explains,  to  "  a  remarkable  power  of 
making  the  most  extraordinary  noises  with  his  throat."     He 

*  The  Religion,  of  the  Pianoforte,  ia  the  Fortnightly  Review,  February, 
1894. 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

even  revels  in  the  pianola !  And  I  have  shared  his  en j  oyment  in 
his  own  rendition  of  a  Chopin  nocturne  upon  that  remarkable 
mechanical  toy. 

Bernard  Shaw  would  have  been  a  model  young  man  at  the 
desk  but  for  the  fact  that,  like  Nathaniel  Hawthorne  at  the 
Boston  Custom  House,  like  Ibsen  at  the  apothecary's  shop  in 
Grimstad,  his  heart  was  not  in  the  thing.  "  I  never  made  a  pay- 
ment," he  once  frankly  confessed  to  me,  "  without  a  hope  or 
even  a  half  resolve  that  I  should  never  have  to  make  it  again. 
In  spite  of  which,  I  was  so  wanting  in  enterprise  and  so  shy  and 
helpless  in  worldly  matters  (though  I  believe  I  had  the  air  of 
being  quite  the  reverse),  that  six  months  later  I  found  myself 
making  the  payment  again." 

There  gradually  came  to  him  a  consciousness  of  the  futility  of 
his  life,  the  consciousness  of  one  who  has  been  freed  of  illusion. 
In  this  young  boy  was  none  of  the  soft-blarney,  the  winning  and 
dulcet  melancholy,  of  the  proverbial  Irishman.  He  escaped  that 
mystic  influence  of  Roman  Catholicism,  which  produces  the 
phantast,  the  dreamer  and  the  saint.  Calvinism  had  taught  him 
that  "  once  a  man  is  born  it  is  too  late  to  save  him  or  damn 
him ;  you  may  '  educate '  him  and  '  form  his  character  '  until 
you  are  black  in  the  face ;  he  is  predestinate,  and  his  soul  cannot 
be  changed  any  more  than  a  silk  purse  can  be  changed  into  a 
sow's  ear."  In  the  atmosphere  of  the  Island  of  the  Saints — 
"  that  most  mystical  of  all  mystical  things  " — he  learned  to 
realize  the  barrenness  of  all  else  in  comparison  with  the  supreme 
importance  of  realizing  the  purpose  of  his  existence  on  this 
earth. 

Hence  it  was  that  his  work  and  position  finally  became  unbear- 
ably irksome,  unendurable.  London  imperatively  beckoned  to 
him.  That  way,  perhaps,  lay  freedom  from  the  obsession  of 
hated  respectability,  freedom  from  repression  of  his  convictions, 
freedom  for  self-development  and  spiritual  expansion.  At  the 
age  of  twenty,  this  raw  Irish  lad,  wholly  ignorant  of  the  great 
•world,  walked  out  of  his  office,  and  threw  himself  recklessly  into 
London.  There,  immediately  after  the  death  of  his  sister  Agnes 
in  the*  Isle  of  Wight,  in  1876,  he  joined  his  mother  in  la  lutte 

25 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

pour  la  vie*  There  he  was  to  set  the  crystalline  intellectual 
clarity,  the  philosophic  consciousness  of  the  brilliant  Celt,  into 
sharp  juxtaposition  with  the  plodding  practicality,  the  dogged 
energy  of  the  complacent  Briton.  There  he  was  to  find  the 
arena  for  his  championship  of  those  advanced  movements  in  art, 
music,  literature  and  politics,  which  give  significance  and  char- 
acter to  the  closing  quarter  of  the  nineteenth  century. 

In  these  early  years  we  may  discern  in  Shaw  the  gradual  birth 
of  the  social  consciousness,  the  slow  unfolding  of  deep-rooted 
impulses  toward  individualism  and  self-expression.  Like  other 
boys  of  his  day  and  time,  Shaw  melted  lead  on  Holieve,  hid 
rings  in  pancakes,  and  indulged  in  the  conventional  mummeries 
of  Christmas.  But  to  him  these  were  dreary,  silly  diversions, 
against  which  his  nature  rebelled.  He  once  refused  to  celebrate 
Shakespeare's  birthday — for  the  very  good  reason  that  he  had 
never  celebrated  his  own.  In  the  conventional  sense,  he  was 
never  "  reared  "  at  all :  he  simply  "  grew  up  wild."  No  effort 
was  made  to  form  his  character:  he  developed  from  within, 
strangely  aloof  in  spirit  from  the  healthy  gaieties  of  the  normal 
lad.  Thus  was  bred  in  him,  even  at  an  early  age,  a  sort  of 
premature  asceticism  which  left  its  indelible  mark  upon  his 
character.  The  puritanic  convictions  which  have  animated  his 
entire  life  find  their  origin  in  the  half -instinctive,  half-enforced 
aloofness  of  his  childhood  days. 

Shaw  was  not  brought  up,  as  we  might  expect,  a  Noncon- 
formist ;  he  was  a  member  of  the  Irish  Protestant  Church.  He 
rebelled  against  the  inhuman  repression,  the  meaningless  ritual- 
ism of  his  church;  but  the  influences  of  his  home,  nevertheless, 
left  their  impress  upon  his  nature.  His  whole  long  life  is  an 
outcry  of  soaring  individualism  against  repressive  authority; 
and  yet  the  puritan  intensity  in  condemnation  of  self-indulgence, 
the  ascetic  revolt  from  alcoholism,  speaks  forth  unmistakably 
in  the  humanitarian,  the  vegetarian,  the  teetotaller  of  a  later 
epoch. 

*Mr.  Shaw's  other  sister,  Miss  Lucy  Carr  Shaw,  was  the  immediate 
cause  of  her  mother's  settling  in  London.  She  became  a  professional 
singer,  and,  later,  a  writer.  Her  best  known  book  is  entitled  Five  Letters 
of  the  House  of  Kildonnel. 

26 


DUBLIN  DAYS 

The  ingrained  and  constitutional  protestantism  of  his  forbears 
found  expression  in  his  boyish,  yet  rigorously  atheistic  protest 
against  the  religion  of  Moody  and  Sankey.  In  this  audacious 
protest  we  can  scarcely  expect  to  find  any  sort  of  matured  con- 
viction; it  is  the  first  bold  denial  of  his  life.  Thus  early  we 
observe  the  workings  of  polemic,  of  criticism  and  analysis — 
before  he  had  ever  left  Irish  soil.  Even  then,  I  fancy,  he  felt 
faint  stirrings  of  a  deeper  religious  protestant  faith.  In  that 
protest,  we  may  discern  a  forecast  of  the  Plays  for  Puritans  and 
The  Shomng-up  of  Blanco  Posnet. 

Thrown  upon  his  own  resources,  sharing  with  his  fellows  none 
of  the  wholesome  and  joyous  foolhardiness  of  youth,  he  devel- 
oped a  maturity  of  judgment,  a  detachment  in  observation,  out 
of  all  proportion  to  his  years.  His  puritanism  expressed  itself 
in  silent  condemnation  of  the  social  self -righteousness  he  saw 
around  him,  the  distinctions  so  sharply  drawn  on  lines,  not  of 
individual  worth,  but  of  social  station  and  respectability.  That 
arresting  passage  in  Man  and  Superman  in  which  he  describes 
the  birth  of  the  social  passion  is  a  piece  of  spiritual  auto- 
biography: it  changed  the  child  into  the  man.  There  was 
already  at  work  within  him  the  leaven  of  the  later  social  revolu- 
tion of  our  own  day.  Intensity  of  political  conviction  was 
a  family  tradition  and  heritage.  In  the  eighteenth  century 
a  Shaw  had  been  leader  of  the  "  Orangemen  " ;  and  in  the  nine- 
teenth century  one  of  Shaw's  uncles  was  the  first  Protestant 
priest  in  Ireland  who,  contrary  to  the  convictions  of  his  com- 
panions in  creed,  declared  himself  in  favour  of  Home  Rule.  By 
heritage,  by  environment,  by  temperament,  Bernard  Shaw  was 
destined  to  display  throughout  his  life  that  intensity  of  political 
conviction,  that  depth  of  humanitarian  concern,  that  passion  for 
social  service  which  will  for  ever  remain  associated  with  his  name. 


27 


LONDON 

"My  destiny  was  to  educate  London,  but  I  had  neither  studied  my 
pupil  nor  related  my  ideas  properly  to  the  common  stock  of  human  knowl- 
edge."— George  Bernard  Shorn;  an  Interview,  in  The  Chap-Book,  Novem- 
ber, 1896. 


CHAPTER  II 

"^^THEN  did  you  first  feel  inclined  to  write?"  Shaw  was 
V  V  once  asked.  "  I  never  felt  inclined  to  write,  any  more 
than  I  ever  felt  inclined  to  breathe,"  was  his  perverse  reply. 
1 1  felt  inclined  to  draw :  Michael  Angelo  was  my  boyish  ideal. 
I  felt  inclined  to  be  a  wicked  baritone  in  an  opera  when  I  grew 
out  of  my  earlier  impulse  towards  piracy  and  highway  robbery. 
You  see,  as  I  couldn't  draw,  I  was  perfectly  well  aware  that 
drawing  was  an  exceptional  gift.  But  it  never  occurred  to 
me  that  my  literary  sense  was  exceptional.  I  gave  the  whole 
world  credit  for  it.  The  fact  is,  there  is  nothing 'miraculous, 
nothing  particularly  interesting,  even,  in  a  natural  faculty  to 
the  man  who  has  it.  The  amateur,  the  collector,  the  enthusiast 
in  an  art,  is  the  man  who  lacks  the  faculty  for  producing  it. 
The  Venetian  wants  to  be  a  cavalry  soldier ;  the  Gaucho  wants  to 
be  a  sailor ;  the  fish  wants  to  fly,  and  the  bird  to  swim.  No,  I 
never  wanted  to  write.  I  know  now,  of  course,  the  value  and 
the  scarcity  of  the  literary  faculty  (though  I  think  it  over- 
rated) ;  but  I  still  don't  want  it."  And  he  added:  "  You  cannot 
want  a  thing  and  have  it,  too." 

That  Shaw  did  want  to  write,  however,  is  clearly  shown  by 
the  early  outpourings  of  the  artistic  mood  in  the  imaginative 
boy.  When  he  was  quite  small,  he  concocted  a  short  story  and 
sent  it  to  some  boys'  journal — something  about  a  man  with  a 
gun  attacking  another  man  in  the  Glen  of  the  Doons.  In  after 
years,  spiritual  adventures  fired  his  soul;  at  this  time,  the  gun 
was  the  centre  of  interest.  The  mimetic  instinct  of  childhood 
in  his  case,  however,  found  incentives  to  the  development  of 
almost  every  artistic  faculty  other  than  writing.  His  hours 
spent  in  the  National  Gallery  of  Ireland,  his  study  of  the 
literature  of  Italian  art,  filled  him  with  the  desire  to  be  another 
Michael  Angelo;  but  he  couldn't  draw.  Like  Browning,  Shaw 
wished  to  be  an  artist,  and,  like  Browning  also,  he  wished  to 

31 


Shaw,^^^ 

r   WHt  years 


* 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

be  a  musician.  He  heard  music  from  the  rising  of  the  sun  unto 
the  going  down  of  the  same ;  he  knew  whole  operas  and  oratorios. 
He  wanted  to  be  a  musician,  but  couldn't  play ;  to  be  a  dramatic 
singer,  but  had  no  voice.  The  facile  conqueror  of  every  literary 
domain,  mocked  in  later  life  with  the  accusation  of  being  a  sort 
of  literary  Jack-of-all-trades,  was  only  puzzled  as  a  youth  to 
discover  in  himself  a  single  promising  potentiality. 

A  casual  remark  of  an  acquaintance  first  startled  Shaw, 
in  his  teens,  into  recognition  of  the  fact  that  he  lacked^ 
of  final  consciousness  in  regard  to  his  own  position  ai 
The  apprentice  in  the  land  agency  office,  eight  orTi^^eal 
Shaw's  senior,  who  sang,  "  Ah,  che  la  morte  "  with  such  deadly 
effect,  one  day  happened  to  obse&fijfefrat  every  young  fellow 
thinks  that  he  is  going  to  be  a^B  w  until  he  is  twenty. 

"  The  shock  that  this  gave  me,"J  Ew  once  confessed  to 
me  with  perfect  naive^L  "  made  me  suddenly  aware  that  this 
was  my  own  precise^  ™on.  But  k  \lry  brief  consideration 
reassured  me — why,  Vj  Vt  know ;  for  I  could  do  nothing  that 
gave  me  the  smallest  hope  of  making  good  my  calm  classification 
of  myself  as  one  of  the  world  to  which  Shelley  and  Mozart  and 
Praxiteles  and  Michael  Angelo  belonged,  and  as  totally  foreign 
to  the  plane  on  which  land  agents  laboured." 

In  Cashel  Byron's  Profession,  the  hero,  a  prize-fighter,  re- 
marks that  it  is  not  what  a  man  would  like  to  do,  but  what  he 
can  do,  that  he  must  work  at  in  this  world.  Naturally  enough, 
Bernard  Shaw,  the  young  lad  in  his  teens,  had  not  yet  come  to 
any  sort  of  artistic  self-consciousness.  Shaw  may  be  said  to 
have  spent  half  of  his  life  in  the  search  for  the  Ultima  Thule 
of  what  he  could  do.  And  it  is  by  no  means  certain,  judging 
from  the  lesson  of  his  career,  that  he  has  yet  discovered  all  of 
his  capabilities.  Certain  it  is  that,  at  this  formative  stage  in 
his  career,  he  had  found  only  one:  the  ability  to  keep — not  to 
write — books.  Mr.  Shaw  once  pictured  for  me  his  state  of 
dejection  at  this  time  over  his  inefficiency  and  incompetence. 
"  What  was  wrong  with  me  then  was  the  want  of  self-respect, 
the  diffidence,  the  cowardice  of  the  ignoramus  and  the  duffer. 
What  saved  me  was  my  consciousness  that  I  must  learn  to  do 
something — that  nothing  but  the  possession  of  skill,  of  efficiency, 


LONDON 


f 

£ of  mastery,  in  short,  was  of  any  use.  The  sort  of  aplomb 
%  which  my  cousins  seemed  to  derive  from  the  consciousness  that 
their  great-great-grandfather  had  also  been  the  great-great- 
grandfather of  Sir  Robert  Shaw,  of  Bushy  Park,  was  denied  to 
me.  You  cannot  be  imposed  on  by  remote  baronets  if  you 
belong  to  the  republic  of  art.  I  was  chronically  ashamed  and 
even  miserable  simply  because  I  couldn't  do  anything.  It  is 
true  that  I  could  keep  Mr.  Townshend's  cash,  and  that  I  never 
dreamt  of  stealing  it ;  and  riper  years  have  made  me  aware  that 
many  of  my  artistic  feats  may  be  less  highly  estimated  in  the 
books  of  the  Recording  Angel  than  this  prosaic  achievement; 
but  at  this  time  it  counted  for  less  than  nothing.  It  was  a 
qualification  for  what  I  hated;  and  the  notion  of  my  principal 
actually  giving  me  a  testimonial  to  my  efficiency  as  a  cashier 
drove  me  to  an  exhibition  of  rage  that  must  have  seemed  merely 
perverse  to  my  unfortunate  father." 

In  these  days  of  inarticulate  revolt  against  current  religious 
and  social  ideals,  Shaw  somehow  found  an  outlet  for  that  seeth- 
ing lava  of  his  spirit,  which  was  one  day  to  burst  forth  with 
such  alarming  effect.  This,  Shaw's  first  published  work,  was 
the  forthright  letter  in  Public  Opinion,  in  which  he  sought  to 
stem  the  force  of  the  first  great  Moody  and  Sankey  revival  by 
the  announcement  that  he,  personally,  had  renounced  religion  as 
a  delusion !  Besides  this  single  public  vent  for  his  insurgency, 
he  had  found,  in  the  friendship  of  a  kindred  spirit  of  imagina- 
tive temperament,  the  opportunity  for  the  expression  of  all  the 
doubts,  hopes  and  aspirations  of  his  eager  and  revolutionary 
intelligence.  With  one  of  his  schoolfellows,  Shaw  struck  up 
a  curious  friendship:  this  young  fellow,  Edward  McNulty,  was 
afterwards  known  as  the  author  of  Misther  O'Ryan,  The  Son 
of  a  Peasant,  and  Maureen,*  three  very  original  and  very  re- 
markable novels  of  Irish  life.  Both  boys  possessed  imaginative 
temperaments,  and  their  association  gave  promise  of  ripening 
into  close  and  lasting  friendship.  But  circumstances  separated 
them  so  effectually  that,  after  their  schooldays,  they  saw  very 
little  of  each  other.     McNulty  was  an  official  in  the  Bank  of 

*  These  books  were  published  by  Edward  Arnold. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Ireland,  and  had  been  drafted  to  the  Newry  branch  of  the  insti- 
tution, while  Shaw,  as  we  know,  was  in  Mr.  Townshend's  land 
office  in  Dublin.  During  the  period  of  their  separation,  between 
Shaw's  fifteenth  and  twentieth  years,  they  kept  up  a  tremendous 
correspondence.  In  this  way  they  probably  worked  off  the 
literary  energy  which  usually  produces  early  works.  The  im- 
mense letters,  sometimes  illustrated  with  crude  drawings  and 
enlivened  by  brief  dramas,  which  came  and  went  with  each  post, 
served  as  "  exhausts  "  for  the  superfluous  steam  of  their  literary 
force.  It  was  understood  between  them  that  the  letters  were  to 
be  destroyed  as  soon  as  answered,  as  their  authors  did  not  relish 
the  possibility  of  such  unreserved  soul  histories  falling  into 
strange  hands. 

I  believe  that  Shaw  perpetrated  one  more  long  correspondence, 
this  time  with  an  unnamed  English  lady,  whose  fervently  imag- 
inative novels  would  have  made  her  known,  Shaw  once  asserted, 
had  he  been  able  to  persuade  her  to  make  her  name  public,  or 
at  least  to  stick  to  the  same  pen  name,  instead  of  changing  it 
for  every  book.  Shaw  also  made  one  valuable  acquaintance  at 
this  time  through  the  accident  of  coming  to  lodge  in  the  same 
house  with  him.  This  was  Chichester  Bell,  of  the  family  of 
that  name  distinguished  for  its  inventive  genius,  a  cousin  of 
Graham  Bell,  the  inventor  of  the  telephone,  and  a  nephew 
of  Melville  Bell,  the  inventor  of  the  phonetic  script  known  as 
Visible  Speech.  The  author  of  the  Standard  Elocutionist,  Chi- 
chester Bell's  father,  whom  Shaw  has  described  as  by  far  the 
most  majestic  and  imposing  looking  man  that  ever  lived  on 
this  or  any  other  planet,  was  the  elocution  professor  in  one  of 
the  schools  attended  by  Shaw  in  his  youth,  the  Wesleyan  Con- 
nexional,  now  Wesley  College,  attendance  at  which,  we  may 
be  sure  from  Shaw's  case,  by  no  means  implied  Methodism.* 
Although  a  qualified  physician,  Chichester  Bell  did  not  care  for 
medical  practice,  and  had  gone  to  Germany,  where  he  devoted 
himself  to  the  study  of  chemistry  and  physics  in  the  school 
of  Helmholtz.  Shaw's  intercourse  with  Bell  proved  to  be  of 
great  value  to  him.     They  studied  Italian  together,  and  while 

*Cf.  John  Bull's  Other  Island;  Preface  for  Politicians,  p.  xvii. 


LONDON 

Shaw  did  not  learn  Italian  with  any  final  thoroughness,  he 
learned  a  great  deal  else,  chiefly  about  physics  and  pathology. 
It  was  through  his  association  with  Bell  that  he  had  come  to 
read  Tyndall  and  Trousseau's  "  Clinical  Lectures."  But  Bell 
is  to  be  remembered  chiefly  in  relation  to  Shaw,  as  first  calling 
his  serious  attention  to  Wagner.  When  Shaw  discovered  that 
Bell,  whose  judgment  he  held  in  high  regard,  considered  Wagner 
a  great  composer,  he  at  once  bought  a  vocal  score  of  Lohengrm, 
which  chanced  to  be  the  only  sample  to  be  had  at  the  Dublin 
music  shops.  From  this  moment  dates  the  career  of  the  re- 
markable music  critic,  who,  in  after  life,  swept  Max  Nordau 
off  the  field  with  his  brilliant  and  unanswerable  defence  of  the 
master-builder  of  modern  music.  For  the  first  few  bars  of 
Lohengrin  completely  converted  him.  He  immediately  became, 
and  ever  afterwards  remained,  the  "  Perfect  Wagnerite." 

The  days  of  Shaw's  youth  before  he  went  to  London,  as  we 
have  seen,  were  poisoned  because  he  was  taught  to  bow  down 
to  proprietary  respectability.  But  even  in  his  "  unfortunate 
childhood,"  as  he  calls  it,  his  heart  was  so  unregenerate  that  he 
secretly  hated,  and  rebelled  against,  mere  respectability.  In 
after  life,  he  found  it  impossible  to  express  the  relief  with  which 
he  discovered  that  his  heart  was  all  along  right,  and  that  the 
current  respectability  of  to-day  is  "  nothing  but  a  huge  inversion 
of  righteous  and  scientific  social  order  weltering  in  dishonesty, 
uselessness,  selfishness,  wanton  misery,  and  idiotic  waste  of  mag- 
nificent opportunity  for  noble  and  happy  living."  Not  the 
evangelist's  but  the  true  reformer's  zeal  was  always  Shaw's. 
He  had  too  much  insight  not  to  recognize  the  futility  of  the 
effort  to  reform  individuals ;  his  humanitarian  spirit  was  imper- 
sonal and  found  its  freest  manifestation  in  fulmination  and 
revolt  against  social  institutions.  Concerning  the  unsocial  sys- 
tem of  setting  class  against  class,  and  creed  against  creed,  he 
has  mordantly  expressed  himself : 

"  If  I  had  not  suffered  from  these  things  in  my  childhood, 
perhaps  I  could  keep  my  temper  about  them.  To  an  out- 
sider there  is  nothing  but  comedy  in  the  spectacle  of  a  for- 
lorn set  of  Protestant  merchants  in  a  Catholic  country,  led 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

by  a  miniature  plutocracy  of  stockholders,  doctors  and 
land  agents,  and  flavoured  by  that  section  of  the  landed 
gentry  who  are  too  heavily  mortgaged  to  escape  to  Lon- 
don, playing  at  being  a  court  and  an  aristocracy  with  the 
assistance  of  the  unfortunate  exile  who  has  been  persuaded 
to  accept  the  post  of  lord-lieutenant.  To  this  pretence, 
involving  a  prodigious  and  continual  lying,  as  to  incomes 
and  the  social  standing  of  relations,  are  sacrificed  citizen- 
ship, self-respect,  freedom  of  thought,  sincerity  of  char- 
acter, and  all  the  realities  of  life,  its  votaries  gaining  in 
return  the  hostile  estrangement  of  the  great  mass  of  their 
fellow  countrymen,  and  in  their  own  class  the  supercilious 
snubs  of  those  who  have  outdone  them  in  pretension  and 
the  jealous  envy  of  those  whom  they  have  outdone." 

The  power  which  he  found  in  Ireland  religious  enough  to 
redeem  him  from  this  abomination  of  desolation  was,  fitly 
enough,  the  power  of  art.  "  My  mother,  as  it  happened,  had 
a  considerable  musical  talent.  In  order  to  exercise  it  seriously 
she  had  to  associate  with  other  people  who  had  musical  talent. 
My  first  childish  doubt  as  to  whether  God  could  really  be  a  good 
Protestant  was  suggested  by  my  observation  of  the  deplorable 
fact  that  the  best  voices  available  for  combination  with  my 
mother's  in  the  works  of  the  great  composers  had  been  unac- 
countably vouchsafed  to  Roman  Catholics.  Even  the  divine 
gentility  was  presently  called  in  question,  for  some  of  these 
vocalists  were  undeniably  connected  with  retail  trade." 

The  situation  in  which  Mrs.  Shaw  found  herself  offered  no 
alternative.  "  There  was  no  help  for  it ;  if  my  mother  was  to 
do  anything  but  sing  silly  ballads  in  drawing-rooms  she  had 
to  associate  herself  on  an  entirely  republican  footing  with  people 
of  like  artistic  gifts,  without  the  smallest  reference  to  creed  or 
class.  Nay,  if  she  wished  to  take  part  in  the  masses  of  Haydn 
and  Mozart,  which  had  not  then  been  forgotten,  she  must  actu- 
ally permit  herself  to  be  approached  by  Roman  Catholic  priests 
and  even,  at  their  invitation,  to  enter  that  house  of  Belial,  the 
Roman  Catholic  chapel  (in  Ireland  the  word  church,  as  applied 
to  a  place  of  worship,  denotes  the  Protestant  denomination), 

36 


LONDON 

and  take  part  in  their  services.  All  of  which  led  directly  to  the 
discovery,  hard  to  credit  at  first,  that  a  Roman  Catholic  priest 
could  be  as  agreeable  and  cultivated  a  person  as  a  Protestant 
clergyman  was  supposed,  in  defiance  of  bitter  experience,  always 
to  be ;  and,  in  short,  that  the  notion  that  the  courtly  distinctions 
of  Dublin  society  corresponded  to  any  real  human  distinctions 
was  as  ignorant  as  it  was  pernicious.  If  religion  is  that  which 
binds  men  to  one  another,  and  irreligion  that  which  sunders, 
then  must  I  testify  that  I  found  the  religion  of  my  country  in 
its  musical  genius  and  its  irreligion  in  its  churches  and  drawing- 
rooms." 

It  was  unerring  common  sense  on  the  domestic  plane, 
acquiescence  in  the  sole  solution  of  a  flinty  problem  of  life, 
which  reveals  Shaw's  mother  to  us  as  the  parent  from  whom 
he  derived  his  determination,  and  his  firm  grip  on  practical 
affairs.  In  marked  contradistinction  to  Lee,  Mrs.  Shaw  made 
no  concessions  to  fashion,  firmly  adhering  to  her  master's  old 
method  in  all  its  rigour.  She  behaved  with  complete  inde- 
pendence of  manner  and  speech  in  the  mode  of  an  Irish  lady 
confronted  with  English  people  openly  describing  themselves  as 
"  middle-class."  On  account  of  this  characteristic  independence 
her  first  experiences  in  London  were  unfortunate  and  dishearten- 
ing. Not  until  she  began  to  teach  choirs  in  schools  did  she  enter 
upon  the  road  of  complete  success.  The  results  she  produced 
in  these  undertakings  so  pleased  the  inspectors — and  more  par- 
ticularly the  parents  at  the  prize  distributions — that  the  head 
mistresses  were  sensible  enough  to  let  her  go  her  own  way. 
Quite  a  conclusive  proof  of  her  ability  is  found  in  the  fact  that 
this  remarkable  woman,  vigorous  and  young-minded  to-day 
although  now  in  the  seventies,  worked  at  that  famous  modern 
institution,  the  North  Collegiate  School  for  Girls,  until  quite 
recently.  For  some  years  she  sought  to  retire  for  the  same 
reason  that  she  stopped  singing:  to  her  Irish  sense  of  humour 
there  was  an  element  almost  of  the  ridiculous  in  a  first-rate 
school  having  an  old  woman  of  between  seventy  and  eighty  wave 
a  stick  and  conduct  a  choir.  But  D.  Sophia  Bryant,  the  prin- 
cipal and  an  old  friend  of  hers,  could  not  see  her  way  to  change 
for  the  better,  and  it  was  only  within  the  last  year  or  two 

37 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

that  Mrs.  Shaw  retired  from  her  post.  No  doubt  Mrs.  Bryant 
was  right;  for  Mr.  Shaw  once  remarked  to  me  that  it  was  not 
an  easy  matter  to  find  a  woman  in  England  who  perfectly  com- 
bines the  ability  to  take  command  in  music  with  the  knowledge 
of  music  as  an  artist,  and  not  as  a  school-mistress  who  has  super- 
ficially studied  the  subject  for  the  sake  of  the  certificates  and 
the  position. 

Mr.  Shaw's  mother  is  the  most  remarkably  youthful  person 
for  her  years  I  have  ever  known,  with  the  possible  exception  of 
Mark  Twain.  I  remember  with  vivid  pleasure  taking  tea  with 
her  and  her  son  one  afternoon  at  her  attractive  little  "  retreat " 
in  West  London.  Her  eyes  danced  with  suppressed  mirth  as  she 
talked,  and  it  was  quite  easy  to  see  from  whom  her  son  derived 
his  strong  sense  of  humour.  Mrs.  Shaw  told  several  delightful 
stories,  one  of  which  deserves  repetition  here.  It  seems  that 
Mrs.  Shaw  is  quite  a  medium  and  spiritualist,  and  takes  a  great 
deal  of  interest  in  communicating  with  "  spirits  "  from  the  other 
world.  One  day  she  "  called  up  "  Mr.  Shaw's  sister  and  asked 
her  what  she  thought  of  George  being  such  a  distinguished  man. 
The  spirit  expressed  surprise  to  hear  the  news.  "  But  aren't 
you  very  proud  of  George?  "  queried  his  mother  disappointedly. 
"Oh,  yes,"  replied  the  spirit;  "it's  all  very  well  in  its  way. 
But,"  she  added,  "  that  sort  of  thing  doesn't  count  for  anything 
up  here  " ! 

Many  of  Mr.  Shaw's  very  distinctive  traits  are  a  direct  in- 
heritance from  his  mother,  modified,  to  be  sure,  by  the  differences 
in  education,  temperament  and  views  of  life.  In  her  teaching 
of  music,  Mrs.  Shaw  deliberately  displayed  total  insensibility  to 
the  petty  dignities  so  cherished  in  English  school-life.  Upon 
visiting  rectors,  head  mistresses,  local  "  personages,"  and,  in 
fact,  upon  all  those  who  wished  things  done  their  own  way, 
she  made  what  her  son  called  "  perfectly  indiscriminate  on- 
slaughts." This  aggressive  assertion  of  her  authority  would 
often  have  made  her  position  untenable,  had  it  not  been  for  her 
patent  ability  and  unquestioned  power  of  leadership.  Her  out- 
spoken frankness  of  manner  and  conduct,  reproduced  with  such 
comically  extravagant  excess  in  her  son,  always  won  her  the 
support  of  the  discriminating :  it  was  always  the  real  "  bigwigs  " 

38 


LONDON 

who  understood  her  manners.  Mr.  Shaw  once  said :  "  From 
my  mother  I  derive  my  brains  and  character,  which  do  her 
credit."  I  remember  asking  Mr.  Shaw's  mother  one  day  to 
what  she  attributed  her  son's  remarkable  success  in  the  world  of 
letters.  "  Oh,"  she  said,  without  a  moment's  hesitation,  her  eyes 
twinkling  merrily  the  while,  "  the  answer  is  quite  simple.  Of 
course,  he  owes  it  all  to  me." 

To  his  parents,  his  mother  in  particular,  Mr.  Shaw  is  also 
indebted  for  actual  financial  support  during  several  years  of 
an  able-bodied  young  manhood.  But  he  has  warned  us  against 
supposing,  because  he  is  a  man  of  letters,  that  he  never  tried  to 
commit  that  "  sin  against  his  nature  "  called  earning  an  honest 
living.  We  have  followed  his  struggles  from  his  fifteenth  to 
his  twentieth  year — a  period  marking  a  social  and  spiritual 
growth  on  his  part,  he  maintains,  of  several  centuries.  "  I  was 
born  on  the  outskirts  of  an  Irish  city,  where  we  lived  exactly 
as  people  lived  in  the  seventeenth  century,  except  that  there 
were  gas-lamps  and  policemen  in  tall  hats.  In  the  course  of  my 
boyhood  literature  and  music  introduced  me  to  the  eighteenth 
century;  and  I  was  helped  a  step  further  through  the  appear- 
ance in  our  house  of  candles  that  did  not  need  snuffing,  an  iron- 
framed  pianoforte  and  typhoid  sanitation.  Finally,  I  crossed 
St.  George's  Channel  into  the  decadence  of  the  mid-nineteenth- 
century  England  of  Anthony  Trollope,  and  slowly  made  my 
way  to  the  forefront  of  the  age— the  period  of  Ibsen,  Nietzsche, 
the  Fabian  Society,  the  motor-car,  and  my  own  writings." 
Very  slowly  indeed  did  he  make  his  way  to  the  forefront  of  the 
age  of  Shavianism.  He  felt  that  he  was  a  man  of  genius,  and 
coolly  classified  himself  as  such.  With  no  effort  of  the  imagina- 
tion, and,  likewise,  with  no  prevision  of  his  subsequent  oft- 
repeated  failures  and  the  position  of  pecuniary  dependence  he 
was  temporarily  to  occupy,  he  found  himself  looking  upon  Lon- 
don as  his  destiny.  There  is  something  at  once  amusing,  inspir- 
ing, and  pathetic  in  the  spectacle  of  this  bashful,  raw,  inex- 
perienced boy,  fortified  only  by  the  confident  consciousness  of 
his  yet  unproved  superiority  to  the  "  common  run  "  of  humanity, 
throwing  himself  thus  headlong  into  London. 

Little   of  romantic   glamour,   fittingly   enough,   attaches  to 

39 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Shaw's  early  struggles  in  London.  No  rapt  listening  to  the 
songs  of  rival  nightingales,  Keats  and  Shelley,  as  with  Brown- 
ing; no  impetuous  and  clandestine  marriage,  as  with  Sheridan; 
no  roses  and  raptures  of  la  vie  Boheme,  as  with  Zola.  It  is, 
instead,  for  the  most  part  a  tale  of  consistent  literary  drudgery, 
rewarded  by  continual  and  repeated  failures.  The  rare  and 
individual  style  of  the  satirist,  the  deft  fingering  of  the  drama- 
tist were  wholly  undeveloped,  and  even  unsuspected,  during  this 
tentative  period  in  his  career.  He  turned  his  hand  to  various 
undertakings — to  musical  criticism,  to  versifying,  to  blank- 
versifying,  to  novel-writing;  but  all  equally  to  no  purpose. 
Asked  once  what  was  his  first  real  success,  he  replied :  "  Never 
had  any.  Success  in  that  sense  is  a  thing  that  comes  to  you 
and  takes  your  breath  away.  What  came  to  me  was  invariably 
failure.  By  the  time  I  wore  it  down  I  knew  too  much  to  care 
about  either  failure  or  success.  Life  is  like  a  battle;  you  have 
to  fire  a  thousand  bullets  to  hit  one  man.  I  was  too  busy  firing 
to  bother  about  the  scoring.  As  to  whether  I  ever  despaired, 
you  will  find  somewhere  in  my  works  this  line :  '  He  who  has 
never  hoped  can  never  despair.'  I  am  not  a  fluctuator."  His 
self-sufficiency,  even  at  this  time,  was  proof  against  all  discour- 
agement. Perhaps  he  found  consolation  also  in  the  saying:  "  He 
who  is  down  need  fear  no  fall." 

Shaw  never  experienced  any  poverty  of  spirit,  of  determina- 
tion, or  of  will;  his  poverty  was  pecuniary  only.  Until  the 
time  of  his  marriage  he  remained  secure  from  the  accusation 
of  being  the  mould  of  fashion  or  the  glass  of  form.  While  the 
Shaw  of  matrimonial  respectability  bears  all  the  marks  of  his 
wife's  civilizing  influence  in  the  matter  of  a  costume  de  rigueur 
— fashionable  clothes,  patent-leather  boots,  and  even,  on  rare 
occasions,  a  "  stiff  "  collar — his  dress  in  the  late  seventies  and 
for  twenty  years  thereafter  was  usually,  like  that  of  March- 
banks,  strikingly  anarchic.  His  outward  appearance,  as  some- 
one unkindly  remarked,  suggested  that  he  might  be  a  fairly  re- 
spectable plasterer !  "  Now,"  said  Shaw  in  1896,  "  when  people 
reproach  me  with  the  unfashionableness  of  my  attire,  they  forget 
that  to  me  it  seems  like  the  raiment  of  Solomon  in  all  his  glory 
by  contrast  with  the  indescribable  seediness  of  those  days,  when 

40 


LONDON 

I  trimmed  my  cuffs  to  the  quick  with  scissors,  and  wore  a  tall 
hat  and  soi-disant  black  coat,  green  with  decay."  But  the  pov- 
erty of  which  this  attire  was  the  outward,  visible  sign  was 
"  shortness  of  cash,"  as  numerous  personal  reminiscences  show. 
From  the  depressing  and  devitalizing  effects  of  "  real  poverty  " 
he  was  strong  enough  to  free  himself,  as  the  following  auto- 
biographical confidence  clearly  evidences: 

"  Whilst  I  am  not  sure  that  the  want  of  money  lames  a 
poor  man  more  than  the  possession  of  it  lames  a  rich  one, 
I  am  quite  sure  that  the  class  which  has  the  pretensions  and 
prejudices  and  habits  of  the  rich  without  its  money,  and 
the  poverty  of  the  poor  without  the  freedom  to  avow 
poverty — in  short,  the  people  who  don't  go  to  the  theatre 
because  they  cannot  afford  the  stalls  and  are  ashamed  to 
be  seen  in  the  gallery — are  the  worst-off  of  all.  To  be  on 
the  down  grade  from  the  haute  bourgeoisie  and  the  landed 
gentry  to  the  nadir  at  which  the  younger  son's  great- 
grandson  gives  up  the  struggle  to  keep  up  appearances; 
to  have  the  pretence  of  a  culture  without  the  reality  of  it ; 
to  make  three  hundred  pounds  a  year  look  like  eight  hun- 
dred pounds  in  Ireland  or  Scotland ;  or  five  hundred  pounds 
look  like  one  thousand  pounds  in  London;  to  be  educated 
neither  at  the  Board  School  and  the  Birkbeck  nor  at  the 
University,  but  at  some  rotten  private  adventure  academy 
for  the  sons  of  gentlemen;  to  try  to  maintain  a  select 
circle  by  excluding  all  the  frankly  poor  people  from  it, 
and  then  find  that  all  the  rest  of  the  world  excludes  you — 
that  is  poverty  at  its  most  damnable;  and  yet  from  that 
poverty  a  great  deal  of  our  literature  and  journalism  has 
sprung.  Think  of  the  frightful  humiliation  of  the  boy 
Dickens  in  the  blacking  warehouse,  and  his  undying  resent- 
ment of  his  mother's  wanting  him  to  stay  there — all  on 
a  false  point  of  genteel  honour.  Think  of  Trollope,  at  an 
upper-class  school  with  holes  in  his  trousers,  because  his 
father  could  not  bring  himself  to  dispense  with  a  man- 
servant. Ugh  !  Be  a  tramp  or  be  a  millionaire — it  matters 
little  which:  what  does  matter  is  being  a  poor  relation  of 

41 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  rich;  and  that  is  the  very  devil.  Fortunately,  that 
sort  of  poverty  can  be  cured  by  simply  shaking  off  its 
ideas — cutting  your  coat  according  to  your  cloth,  and  not 
according  to  the  cloth  of  your  father's  second  cousin,  the 
baronet.  As  I  was  always  more  or  less  in  rebellion  against 
those  ideas,  and  finally  shook  them  off  pretty  completely,  I 
cannot  say  that  I  have  much  experience  of  real  poverty — ■ 
quite  the  contrary."  * 

With  that  comic  seriousness  which  always  passes  for  out- 
rageous prevarication,  Shaw  has  related  that  during  the  nine 
years  from  1876  to  1885  his  adventures  in  literature  netted  him 
the  princely  sum  of  exactly  six  pounds.  At  first  he  "  devilled  " 
for  a  musical  critic ;  but  his  notices  "  led  to  the  stoppage  of 
all  the  concert  advertisements  and  ruined  the  paper  " — "  which 
died — partly  of  me."  He  also  began  a  Passion  Play  in  blank 
verse,  with  the  mother  of  the  hero  represented  as  a  termagant. 
Ah,  if  that  play  had  only  been  finished !  But  Shaw  never  car- 
ried through  these  customary  follies  of  young  authors,  unless  we 
agree  with  those  who  classify  his  novels  as  follies  of  a  green 
boy.  "I  was  always,  fortunately  for  me,"  Mr.  Shaw  once 
remarked,  "  a  failure  as  a  trifler.  All  my  attempts  at  Art  for 
Art's  sake  broke  down ;  it  was  like  hammering  tenpenny  nails  into 
sheets  of  notepaper." 

One  finds  it  an  easy  matter  to  believe  him  when  he  tells  us, 
not  only  that  he  was  provincial,  unpresentable,  but,  more  broadly 
speaking,  that  he  was  in  an  impossible  position.  "  I  was  a 
foreigner — an  Irishman,  the  most  foreign  of  all  foreigners  when 
he  has  not  gone  through  the  University  mill.  I  was  .  .  .  not 
uneducated;  but,  unfortunately,  what  I  knew  was  exactly  what 
the  educated  Englishman  did  not  know,  and  what  he  knew — I 
either  didn't  know  or  didn't  believe."  Six  pounds  was  a  very 
small  allowance  for  a  growing  young  man,  even  a  struggling 
author,  to  live  on  for  nine  years.  Even  if  we  match  him  with 
equal  scepticism,  at  least  we  can  discover,  as  will  be  seen,  no 

*  Who  I  Am,  and  What  I  Think,  by  G.  Bernard  Shaw.  Part  I.— In  the 
Candid  Friend,   May   11th,   1901. 

42 


LONDON 

error  in  his  arithmetical  calculations.  After  Shaw  had  hounded 
the  musical  critic  and  his  paper  to  the  grave,  London  absolutely 
refused  to  tolerate  him  on  any  terms.  As  the  nine  years  pro- 
gressed, he  had  one  article  accepted  by  Mr.  G.  R.  Sims,  who 
had  just  started  a  short-lived  paper  called  One  and  All.  "  It 
brought  me  fifteen  shillings.  Full  of  hope  and  gratitude,  I 
wrote  a  really  brilliant  contribution.  That  finished  me."  Dur- 
ing this  period,  he  received  his  greatest  fee — five  pounds — for 
a  patent  medicine  advertisement,  a  circumstance  which  may 
give  some  colour  to  Dr.  Meyerfeld's  early  denunciation  of  Shaw 
as  a  "  quacksalver."  On  another  occasion,  a  publisher  asked 
Shaw  for  some  verses  to  fit  some  old  blocks  which  he  had  bought 
up  for  a  school  prize  book.  "  I  wrote  a  parody  of  the  thing 
he  wanted  and  sent  it  as  a  j  oke.  To  my  stupefaction  he  thanked 
me  seriously,  and  paid  me  five  shillings."  Shaw  was  so  much 
touched  by  the  gift  of  five  shillings  for  his  parody  that  he  wrote 
the  generous  publisher  a  serious  verse  for  another  picture. 
With  the  startling  result  that  the  publisher  took  it  as  a  joke  in 
questionable  taste !  Is  it  any  wonder  that  Shaw's  career  as 
a  versifier  abruptly  ended? 

The  analysis  of  the  artistic  temperament  which  Shaw  puts  in 
the  mouth  of  John  Tanner — an  analysis  which  Mr.  Robert 
Loraine  finds  to  smack  more  of  mania  than  of  insincerity — ■ 
is  a  cynical  and  distorted  picture  at  best.  And  yet  it  gives 
us  a  refracted  glimpse  of  the  position  which  Shaw  himself 
deliberately  assumed.  "  The  true  artist,"  Tanner  rattles  on, 
"  will  let  his  wife  starve,  his  children  go  barefoot,  his 
mother  drudge  for  his  living  at  seventy,  sooner  than  work 
at  anything  but  his  art.  To  women  he  is  half  vivisector,  half 
vampire.  He  gets  into  intimate  relations  with  them  to  study 
them,  to  strip  the  mask  of  convention  from  them,  to  surprise 
their  inmost  secrets,  knowing  that  they  have  the  power  to  rouse 
his  deepest  creative  energies,  to  rescue  him  from  his  cold  reason, 
to  make  him  see  visions  and  dream  dreams,  to  inspire  him,  as  he 
calls  it.  He  persuades  women  that  they  may  do  this  for  their 
own  purpose,  whilst  he  really  means  them  to  do  it  for  his." 
After  various  attempts  "  to  earn  an  honest  living,"  Shaw  gave 
up  trying  to  commit  that  sin  against  his  nature,  as  he  puts  it. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

His  last  attempt  was  in  1879,  we  are  told,  "  when  a  company 
was  formed  in  London  to  exploit  an  ingenious  invention  by  Mr. 
Thomas  Alva  Edison — a  much  too  ingenious  invention,  as  it 
proved,  being  nothing  less  than  a  telephone  of  such  stentorian 
efficiency  that  it  bellowed  your  most  private  communications  all 
over  the  house  instead  of  whispering  them  with  some  sort  of 
discretion."  His  interest  in  physics,  his  acquaintance  with  the 
works  of  Tyndall  and  Helmholtz,  and  his  friendship  with  Mr. 
Chichester  Bell,  of  which  mention  has  been  made,  gave  him,  he 
asserts,  the  customary  superiority  over  those  about  him  which 
he  is  in  the  habit  of  claiming  in  all  the  relations  of  life.  While 
he  remained  with  the  company  only  a  few  months,  he  discharged 
his  duties  in  a  manner,  which,  according  to  his  own  outrageous 
and  comically  prevaricative  assertion,  "  laid  the  foundation  of 
Mr.  Edison's  London  reputation." 

After  this  experience,  he  began,  as  he  says,  to  lay  the  founda- 
tions of  his  own  fortune  "  by  the  most  ruthless  disregard  of  all 
the  quack  duties  which  lead  the  peasant  lad  of  fiction  to  the 
White  House,  and  harness  the  real  peasant  boy  to  the  plough 
until  he  is  finally  swept,  as  rubbish,  into  the  workhouse."  Far 
from  being  a  "  peasant  lad,"  who  climbed  manfully  upward 
from  the  lowest  rung  of  the  social  ladder,  he  was  in  reality  the 
son  of  a  gentleman  who  had  an  income  of  at  least  three  figures 
(four,  if  you  count  in  dollars  instead  of  pounds),  and  was  second 
cousin  to  a  baronet.  "  I  never  climbed  any  ladder :  I  have 
achieved  eminence  by  sheer  gravitation;  and  I  hereby  warn  all 
peasant  lads  not  to  be  duped  by  my  pretended  example  into 
regarding  their  present  servitude  as  a  practicable  first  step  to 
a  celebrity  so  dazzling  that  its  subject  cannot  even  suppress  his 
own  bad  novels." 

Shaw  seems  intent  upon  convincing  us  that,  like  the  artist  of 
his  own  description,  he  was  an  atrocious  egotist  in  his  disregard 
of  others ;  but  we  must  take  his  confessions  with  the  customary 
grain  of  salt.  "  I  was  an  able-bodied  and  able-minded  young 
man  in  the  strength  of  my  youth ;  and  my  family,  then  heavily 
embarrassed,  needed  my  help  urgently.  That  I  should  have 
chosen  to  be  a  burden  to  them  instead  was,  according  to  all  the 
conventions  of  peasant  fiction,  monstrous.    Well,  without  a  blush 

44 


LONDON 

I  embraced  the  monstrosity.  I  did  not  throw  myself  into  the 
struggle  for  life :  I  threw  my  mother  into  it.  I  was  not  a  staff 
to  my  father's  old  age :  I  hung  on  to  his  coat  tails.  His  reward 
was  to  live  just  long  enough  to  read  a  review  of  one  of  these 
silly  novels  written  in  an  obscure  journal  by  a  personal  friend 
of  my  own  (now  eminent  in  literature  as  Mr.  John  Mackinnon 
Robertson)  prefiguring  me  to  some  extent  as  a  considerable 
author.  I  think,  myself,  that  this  was  a  handsome  reward,  far 
better  worth  having  than  a  nice  pension  from  a  dutiful  son 
struggling  slavishly  for  his  parents'  bread  in  some  sordid  trade. 
Handsome  or  not,  it  was  the  only  return  he  ever  had  for  the 
little  pension  he  contrived  to  export  from  Ireland  for  his  family. 
My  mother  reinforced  it  by  drudging  in  her  elder  years  at  the 
art  of  music  which  she  had  followed  in  her  prime  freely  for  love. 
I  only  helped  to  spend  it.  People  wondered  at  my  heartlessness : 
one  young  and  romantic  lady  had  the  courage  to  remonstrate 
openly  and  indignantly  with  me,  '  for  the  which,'  as  Pepys  said 
of  the  shipwright's  wife  who  refused  his  advances, '  I  did  respect 
her.'  Callous  as  Comus  to  moral  babble,  I  steadily  wrote  my  five 
pages  a  day  and  made  a  man  of  myself  (at  my  mother's  ex- 
pense) instead  of  a  slave." 

In  Shaw's  opinion,  his  brain  constituted  the  sum  and  sub- 
stance of  his  riches.  The  projection  and  exposition  of  his  ex- 
perience came  to  be  the  most  urgent  need  and  object  of  his  life. 
He  recognized  a  higher  duty  than  merely  earning  his  living: 
the  fulfilment  of  his  individual  destiny.  He  resolved  to  become 
a  writer.  In  this  resolve  to  dedicate  all  his  powers  to  the  art  of 
self-expression,  lies  the  explanation  of  his  strange  words :  "  My 
mother  worked  for  my  living  instead  of  preaching  that  it  was 
my  duty  to  work  for  hers;  therefore,  take  off  your  hat  to  her 
and  blush."  * 

Although  it  was  a  "  frightful  squeeze  "  at  times,  Shaw  was 
not  wholly  destitute.  A  suit  of  evening  clothes  and  the  knack 
of  playing  a  "  simple  accompaniment  at  sight  more  congenially 
to  a  singer  than  most  amateurs,"  gave  him  "  for  a  fitful  year 

*  The  Irrational  Knot,  Preface  to  the  American  edition  of  1905,  Bren- 
tanos,  N.  Y. 

45 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

or  so,"  the  entree  into  the  better  circle  of  musical  society  in 
London. 

In  this  latter  day  of  his  assertion  that  money  controls  moral- 
ity, Shaw  is  perfectly  consistent  in  speaking  of  his  poverty  and 
quotidian  shabbiness  as  the  two  "  disgusting  faults  "  of  his 
youth.  But  at  the  time  he  did  not  recognize  them  as  faults, 
because  he  could  not  help  them.  "  I  therefore  tolerated  the 
gross  error  that  poverty,  though  an  inconvenience  and  a  trial, 
is  not  a  sin  and  a  disgrace:  and  I  stood  for  my  self-respect 
on  the  things  I  had:  probity,  ability,  knowledge  of  art,  labori- 
ousness,  and  whatever  else  came  cheaply  to  me."  A  certain  pride 
of  birth,  a  consciousness  of  worthy  ancestry,  also  sustained  him, 
and  helped  him  to  triumph  over  circumstance.  It  was  this  same 
feeling  which  gave  him  suavity  and  poise  during  the  later  cam- 
paigns of  his  revolutionary  Socialism,  and  saved  him  from  the 
excesses,  the  blind  fur}',  of  the  mere  proletarian.  He  had  a 
magnificent  library  in  Bloomsbury,  a  priceless  picture-gallery  in 
Trafalgar  Square,  and  another  at  Hampton  Court,  without  any 
servants  to  look  after  or  rent  to  pay.  During  these  years 
Shaw's  gain  in  the  cultivation  of  his  musical  and  artistic  tastes 
more  than  compensated  for  his  lack  of  the  advantages  of  wealth. 
Nor  were  his  essays  in  literature  and  criticism — I  do  not  refer 
to  his  playful  dilettantism — profitless  in  any  real  sense.  It  is 
true  that  innumerable  articles  were  consistently  returned  to 
him;  and  yet  he  went  his  way  undismayed,  slowly  saturating 
himself  with  Italian  art  from  Mantegna  to  Michael  Angelo, 
with  the  best  music  from  London  to  Bayreuth.  And  while 
London  had  not  "  caught  his  tone,"  musical  or  otherwise,  at 
this  time,  the  day  was  to  come  in  which  he  should  reap  the 
reward  for  his  critical  knowledge  of  art  and  music,  for  the 
rare  and  individual  style  which  he  was  slowly  perfecting. 

To  the  student  of  Shaw  as  the  litterateur — the  highwayman 
who  "  held  up  "  so  many  different  forms  of  art — the  chief  in- 
terest of  this  period  is  to  be  found  in  the  five  novels  which  he 
wrote  during  the  five  years  from  1879  to  1883 — an  average  of 
one  a  year.  His  first  novel,  written  in  1879,  and  called,  "  with 
merciless  fitness  "  as  Shaw  says,  Immaturity,  was  never  pub- 
lished ;  and  we  are  told  that  even  the  rats  were  unable  to  finish 

46 


„ 


From  a  photo  by]  [Window  <(■  Grove. 

SHAW    AT    THE     AGE    OF    TWENTY-THREE. 
From  a  photograph   taken   in   London,   July  4th,    1  879. 

[Facing  p.  46 


LONDON 

it.  George  Meredith,  the  novelist,  who  was  a  reader  and  literary 
adviser  for  the  publishing  firm  of  Chapman  and  Hall,  London, 
from  1860  to  1897,  rejected  the  manuscript  of  Immaturity,  sans 
phrase — quickly  disposing  of  it  with  a  laconic  "  No."  The 
remaining  four  have  all  been  published,  in  magazines  and  in 
book-form,  either  in  England  or  America.  Shaw  "  turned  them 
out,"  one  each  year,  with  unvarying  regularity  and  also  with 
unvarying  result:  refusal  by  the  publishers.  That  six  pounds 
which  Shaw  earned  in  nine  years  must  certainly  have  gone  a 
long  way — as  postage  stamps. 

Mr.  Shaw  has  carefully  explained  to  us  why  his  works  were 
refused  by  publisher  after  publisher.  And  I  find  no  reason  to 
question  his  explanation  to  the  effect  that  it  was  the  world-old 
struggle  between  literary  conscience  and  public  taste.  The  more 
he  progressed  towards  his  own  individual  style,  and  ventured 
upon  the  freer  expression  of  his  own  ideas,  the  more  he  disap- 
pointed the  "  grave,  elderly  lovers  of  literature."  As  to  the 
regular  novel-publishing  houses,  whose  readers  were  merely  on 
the  scent  of  popularity,  they  gave  him,  we  are  told,  no  quarter 
at  all.  "  And  so  between  the  old  stool  of  my  literary  conscien- 
tiousness and  the  new  stool  of  a  view  of  life  that  did  not  reach 
publishing  point  in  England  until  about  ten  years  later,  when 
Ibsen  drove  it  in,  my  novels  fell  to  the  ground." 

We  may  omit  for  the  present  any  discussion  of  the  validity  of 
Mr.  Shaw's  claims  as  a  "  fictionist."  But  the  story  of  the  cir- 
cumstances under  which  the  novels  finally  found  their  way  into 
print  is  certainly  worthy  of  narration.  It  was  in  1882  that 
Henry  George,  by  a  speech  during  one  of  the  public  meetings 
at  the  Memorial  Hall,  Farringdon  Street,  London,  fired  Shaw 
to  enlist,  in  Heine's  phrase,  "  as  a  soldier  in  the  Liberative  War 
of  Humanity."  *  About  this  time  a  body,  styling  itself  the 
Land  Reform  Union,  which  still  survives  as  the  English  Land 
Restoration  League,  was  formed  to  propagate  Georgite  Land 
Nationalization.  The  official  mouthpiece  of  this  body  was  called, 
if  memory  serves,  the  Christian  Socialist,  which  did  not  last 
long,  owing,  as  Shaw  said,  to  a  lack  of  Christians.     Shaw  made 

*  Cf.  Chapter  IV.,  The  Fabian  Society. 

47 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

a  number  of  lifelong  friends  through  his  connection  with  this 
organization,  which  he  joined  soon  after  its  formation.  Chief 
among  these  may  be  mentioned  James  Leigh  Joynes,  Sydney 
Olivier  and  Henry  Hyde  Champion;  other  acquaintances  were 
two  Christian  Socialist  clergymen — Stewart  Headlam  and 
Symes  of  Nottingham.  Shaw  and  Symes  frequently  indulged 
in  wordy  warfare  over  the  respective  merits  of  Socialism  and 
Land  Nationalization  as  universal  panaceas  for  social  evils. 
Symes  argued  that  Land  Nationalization  would  settle  every- 
thing, to  which  Shaw  cleverly  and  characteristically  replied,  as 
he  once  told  me,  that  if  capital  were  still  privately  appropriated 
Symes  would  remain  "  the  chaplain  of  a  pirate  ship."  It  is  proof 
of  Shaw's  fundamental  Socialism  that  he  still  regards  this  as 
a  very  fair  description  of  the  position  of  a  clergyman  under 
our  present  system. 

Through  his  association  with  James  Leigh  Joynes  and  the 
Salt  family  it  is  not  difficult  to  trace  Shaw's  initial  feeling  for 
Shelley,  and  the  origin  and  growth  of  his  humanitarian  and 
vegetarian  principles.  At  this  time  Joynes  had  just  been  de- 
prived of  his  Eton  post  because  he  had  made  a  tour  in  Ireland 
with  Henry  George  and  been  arrested  with  him  under  the  Coer- 
cion Act  by  the  police,  who  did  not  understand  Land  Nation- 
alization and  supposed  the  two  to  be  emissaries  of  the  Clan  na 
Gael.  Henry  Salt,  another  Eton  master,  to  whom  Joynes'  sister 
was  married,  was  not  only,  like  Joynes,  a  vegetarian,  a  humani- 
tarian, a  Shelleyan,  but  a  De  Quinceyite  as  well.  Being  a  born 
revolutionist,  he  loathed  Eton;  and  as  soon  as  he  had  saved 
enough  to  live  with  a  Thoreau-like  simplicity  in  a  labourer's 
cottage  in  the  country,  he  threw  up  his  post  and  shook  the  dust 
of  Eton  from  his  feet.  In  company  with  Joynes,  Shaw  visited 
the  Salts  once  before  they  left  Eton.  It  is  interesting  in  this 
connection  to  read  an  absurdly  amusing  description,  written  by 
Shaw,  of  his  first  visit  to  them  in  the  country  at  Tilford — an 
article  entitled  A  Sunday  on  the  Surrey  Hills* 

There  were  no  children  in  the  family ;  and  one  of  Shaw's  chief 
amusements  while  visiting  the  Salts  was  to  play  endless  piano- 


*The  Pall  Mall  Gazette,  April  28th,  1888. 

48 


LONDON 

forte  duets  with  Mrs.  Salt,  on  what  he  called  "  the  noisiest  grand 
piano  that  ever  descended  from  Eton  to  a  Surrey  cottage." 
Salt  found  his  metier,  not  in  Socialism,  but  in  humanitarianism. 
He  founded  the  Humanitarian  League,  of  which  he  is  still  secre- 
tary. This  association  of  Shaw  with  the  Salt  family  eventuated 
in  close  and  warm  mutual  friendship.  Many  were  the  visits 
Shaw  paid  them  at  this  time  and  in  later  years.  It  was  in  the 
heather  on  Limpsfield  Common,  during  his  visits  to  them  at 
Oxford,  that  he  wrote  several  of  the  scenes  of  his  Plays,  Pleasant 
and  Unpleasant. 

In  this  association  may  be  discovered  the  real  link  between 
Shaw  and  the  Humanitarians.  For  twenty-five  years  Shaw 
was  a  "  cannibal,"  according  to  his  own  damning  verdict.  For 
the  remainder  of  his  life  he  has  been  a  strict  vegetarian,  pro- 
fessing his  principles  with  a  comic  force  equalled  only  by  the 
rigour  with  which  he  puts  them  into  practice.  While  the  most 
of  men  in  their  boyhood  have  walked  about  with  a  cheap  edition 
of  Shelley  in  their  pockets,  it  is  a  tiresome  trait  in  Shaw, 
someone  has  slightingly  remarked,  that  he  has  never  taken  this 
cheap  edition  out.  Shelley  it  was,  certainly,  who  first  called 
Shaw's  attention  to  the  "  infamy  of  his  habits."  And  it  is  also 
true  that  Shaw  has  never  discarded  his  vegetarian  principles, 
never  repudiated  Shelley's  humane  views  and  ideals  of  life.  "  It 
may  require  some  reflection,"  Shaw  once  wrote,  "  to  see  that  high 
feeling  brings  high  thinking;  but  we  already  know,  without 
reflection,  that  high  thinking  brings  what  is  called  plain  living. 
In  this  century  the  world  has  produced  two  men — Shelley  and 
Wagner — in  whom  intense  poetic  feeling  was  the  permanent 
state  of  their  consciousness,  and  who  were  certainly  not  re- 
strained by  any  religious,  conventional  or  prudential  consid- 
erations from  indulging  themselves  to  the  utmost  of  their 
opportunities.  Far  from  being  gluttonous,  drunken,  cruel  or 
debauched,  they  were  apostles  of  vegetarianism  and  water- 
drinking  ;  had  an  utter  horror  of  violence  and  '  sport ' ;  were 
notable  champions  of  the  independence  of  women;  and  were,  in 
short,  driven  into  open  revolution  against  the  social  evils  which 
the  average  sensual  man  finds  extremely  suitable  to  him.  So 
much  is  this  the  case  that  the  practical  doctrine  of  these  two 

49 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

arch-voluptuaries  always  presents  itself  to  ordinary  persons  as 
a  saint-like  asceticism."  * 

At  the  time  of  the  mutual  intimacy  of  Joynes,  Shaw,  and 
the  Salts,  and  their  unhesitating  approval  and  admiration  of 
Shelley,  early  in  the  eighties,  vegetarian  restaurants  began  to  be 
established  here  and  there  throughout  the  country.  These  scat- 
tered restaurants,  Mr.  Shaw  once  remarked  in  connection  with 
his  own  conversion  to  the  faith  of  Shelley,  "  made  vegetarian- 
ism possible  for  a  man  too  poor  to  be  catered  for."  f  It  is 
hardly  open  to  doubt  that,  while  Shelley  first  called  Shaw's 
attention  to  vegetarianism,  it  was  Joynes  and  Salt  who  first 
confirmed  him  in  the  belief,  which  soon  became  solidified  into 
a  hard-and-fast  principle,  that  "  the  enormity  of  eating  the 
scorched  corpses  of  animals — cannibalism  with  its  heroic  dish 
omitted — becomes  impossible  the  moment  it  becomes  consciously 
instead  of  thoughtlessly  habitual." 

Another  member  of  this  coterie,  in  which  there  was  no  ques- 
tion of  Henry  George  and  Karl  Marx,  but  a  great  deal  of 
Walt  Whitman  and  Thoreau,  was  the  now  well-known  Socialist 
and  author,  Edward  Carpenter,  whose  Towards  Democracy 
and  other  works  are  a  faithful  reflex  of  the  man.  It  became 
the  habit  of  these  early  apostles  of  "  the  simple  life  "  to  wear 
sandals ;  Carpenter  even  wore  his  out  of  doors.  He  had  taught 
the  secret  of  their  manufacture  to  a  workman  friend  of  his  at 
Millthorpe,  a  village  near  Sheffield,  where  he  resided.  Not 
unfittingly,  the  habitual  wearer  of  moccasins,  Carpenter,  was 
always  called  The  Noble  Savage  by  the  members  of  this  con- 
genial and  delightful  circle.  The  noisy  grand  piano  grew 
noisier  than  ever  when  Shaw  and  Carpenter  visited  the  Salts — 
Carpenter,  like  Shaw,  revelling  in  pianoforte  duets  with  Mrs. 
Salt. 

The  death  of  Joynes  was  a  great  grief  to  these  close  friends, 

*  The  Religion  of  the  Pianoforte.  In  the  Fortnightly  Review,  February, 
1894. 

•j-  Mr.  Shaw's  confessions  in  regard  to  his  change  from  "  cannibalism " 
to  vegetarianism  are  perhaps  best  given  in  an  article  in  the  Pall  Mall 
Gazette  for  January  26th,  1886,  entitled,  Failures  of  Inept  Vegetarians. 
By  an  Expert. 

50 


LONDON 

especially  to  Shaw.  I  am  convinced  that  those  mordantly 
incisive  and  penetrating  attacks  which  Shaw,  in  after  life,  made 
upon  modern  surgery  and  modern  medicine  find  their  animus  in 
his  resentment  of  the  manner  of  Joynes'  death.  Certain  pas- 
sages from  The  Philanderer  and  The  Conflict  of  Science  and 
Common  Sense  thus  become  more  humanly  comprehensible.  The 
literary  activities  of  this  circle,  so  sadly  broken  up  by  the  death 
of  Joynes,  were  by  no  means  confined  solely  to  Carpenter  and 
Shaw.  Joynes  himself  left  a  volume  of  excellent  translations 
of  the  revolutionary  songs  of  the  German  revolutionists  of  1848 
— Herwegh,  Freiligrath  and  others.*  Salt,  whom  Shaw  has 
occasionally  quoted,  has  published  several  monographs,  his 
tastes  and  predilections  revealing  themselves  in  the  names  of 
Shelley,  James  Thomson,  Jeffries  and  De  Quincey. 

The  Socialist  revival  of  the  eighties  is  responsible  for  the  final 
publication  of  Shaw's  novels.  As  long  as  he  kept  sending  them 
to  the  publishers,  "  they  were  as  safe  from  publicity  as  they 
would  have  been  in  the  fire."  But  as  soon  as  he  flung  them  aside 
as  failures,  with  a  strange  perversity,  "  they  almost  instantly 
began  to  show  signs  of  life."  Among  the  crop  of  propagandist 
magazines  which  accompanied  the  Socialistic  revival  of  the 
eighties  was  one  called  To-Day — not  the  present  paper  of  that 
name,  but  one  of  the  many  "  To-Days  which  are  now  Yester- 
days." It  was  printed  by  Henry  Hyde  Champion,  but  there 
were  several  joint  editors,  of  brief  tenure,  among  whom  were 
Belfort  Bax,  the  well-known  Socialist,  and  James  Leigh  Joynes. 
Although  publishing  his  novels  in  this  magazine,  which  it  seems 
paid  nothing  for  contributions,  "  seemed  a  matter  of  no  more 
consequence  than  stuffing  so  many  window-panes  with  them," 
Shaw  nevertheless  offered  up  An  Unsocial  Socialist  and  Cashel 
Byron's  Profession  on  this  unstable  altar  of  his  political  faith. t 

*  For  a  brief  and  illuminative  biographical  sketch  of  James  Leigh 
Joynes,  compare  Shaw's  review  of  his  book,  Songs  of  a  Revolutionary 
Epoch,  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette,  April  16th,  1888. 

f  The  first  instalment  of  An  Unsocial  Socialist  appeared  in  To-Day,  a 
"monthly  magazine  of  Scientific  Socialism,"  New  Series,  Vol.  I.  (January- 
June,  1884),  March  number,  pp.  205-220.  The  final  instalment  appeared 
in  New  Series,  Vol.  II.,  of  the  same  magazine  (July-December,  1884), 
December  number,  pp.  543-579.     The  novel  appeared  under  Shaw's  name, 

51 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

With  one  noteworthy  exception,  there  were  no  visible  results 
from  the  serial  publications  of  these  two  novels.  Shaw's  novels, 
not  uncharacteristically,  appeared  in  inverse  order  of  composi- 
tion; and  number  five,  An  Unsocial  Socialist,  made  Shaw  ac- 
quainted with  William  Morris,  an  acquaintance  which,  as  we 
shall  see,  ripened  later  into  genuine  and  sincere  friendship.  To 
Shaw's  surprise,  as  he  tells  us,  William  Morris  had  been  reading 
the  monthly  instalments  with  a  certain  relish — a  proof  to  Shaw's 
mind  "  how  much  easier  it  is  to  please  a  great  man  than  a  little 
one,  especially  when  you  share  his  politics." 

Another  propagandist  magazine,  created  after  the  passing  of 
To-day,  and  called  Our  Corner,  was  published  by  Mrs.  Annie 
Besant,  with  whom  Shaw  had  become  acquainted  about  the  time 
he  joined  the  Fabian  Society.  "  She  was  an  incorrigible  bene- 
factress," Shaw  says,  "  and  probably  revenged  herself  for  my 
freely  expressed  scorn  for  this  weakness  by  drawing  on  her 
private  account  to  pay  me  for  my  jejune  novels."  Up  to  this 
time,  all  Shaw's  literary  productions  seemed  to  have  the  deadly 
effect  of  driving  their  media  of  circulation  to  an  early  grave. 
After  The  Irrational  Knot  and  Love  Among  the  Artists  had  run 
through  its  pages  in  serial  form,  Our  Corner  likewise  succumbed 
to  the  inevitable.* 

To  Shaw's  expressed  regret,  Cashel  Byron's  Profession  found 
one  staunch  admirer  at  least.  This  was  Henry  Hyde  Champion, 
who  had  thrown  up  a  commission  in  the  Army  at  the  call  of 
Socialism.  This  admiration  for  Shaw's  realistic  exposure  of 
pugilism — Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me  that  he  always  considered 
admiration  of  Cashel  Byron's  Profession  the  mark  of  a  fool! 

and  is  marked  at  the  close  (page  579),  "The  End,"  and  dated  beneath, 
"  London,  1883,"  the  date  of  composition.  Cashel  Byron's  Profession  ran  in 
the  same  magazine  through  the  years  1885  and  1886,  beginning  in  New 
Series,  Vol.  III.  (January- June,  1885),  April  number,  pp.  145-160,  and 
concluding  in  Vol.  V.  (January-June,  1886),  March  number,  pp.  67-73. 

*  The  Irrational  Knot  began  in  Vol.  V.  (January-June,  1885),  pp.  229-240, 
ran  through  Vols.  VI.,  VII.  and  VIII.,  and  was  concluded  in  Vol.  IX. 
(January-June,  1887),  ending  on  page  82.  Love  Among  the  Artists  opened 
in  Vol.  X.  (July-December,  1887)  of  the  same  magazine,  ran  through 
Vol.  XI.,  and  was  concluded  in  Vol.  XII.  (July-December,  1888),  on  page 
352.  It  is  marked  at  the  close  (page  352),  "  The  End,  London,  1881  "—the 
date  of  composition. 

52 


LONDON 

— had  very  momentous  consequences.  Champion,  it  seems,  had 
an  "  unregenerate  taste  for  pugilism  " — a  pugnacious  survival 
of  his  abdicated  adjutancy.  "  He  liked  '  Cashel  Byron  '  so  much 
that  he  stereotyped  the  pages  of  To-Bay  which  it  occupied, 
and  in  spite  of  my  remonstrances,  hurled  on  the  market  a  mis- 
shapen shilling  edition.  My  friend,  Mr.  William  Archer,  re- 
viewed it  prominently ;  the  Saturday  Review,  always  susceptible 
in  those  days  to  the  arts  of  self-defence,  unexpectedly  declared 
it  the  novel  of  the  age;  Mr.  W.  E.  Henley  wanted  to  have  it 
dramatized;  Stevenson  wrote  a  letter  about  it  .  .  .  ;  the  other 
papers  hastily  searched  their  waste-paper  baskets  for  it  and 
reviewed  it,  mostly  rather  disappointedly ;  the  public  preserved 
its  composure  and  did  not  seem  to  care."  This  letter  of  Steven- 
son's to  William  Archer,*  written  at  Saranac  Lake  in  the  winter 
of  1887-8,  contains  some  very  interesting  criticism,  as  a  quota- 
tion will  show: 

"  What  am  I  to  say  ?  I  have  read  your  friend's  book 
with  singular  relish.  If  he  has  written  any  other,  I  beg  you 
will  let  me  see  it ;  and  if  he  has  not,  I  beg  him  to  lose  no 
time  in  supplying  the  deficiency.  It  is  full  of  promise,  but 
I  should  like  to  know  his  age.  There  are  things  in  it  that 
are  very  clever,  to  which  I  attach  no  importance ;  it  is  the 
shape  of  the  age.  And  there  are  passages,  particularly 
the  rally  in  the  presence  of  the  Zulu  King,  that  show 
genuine  and  remarkable  narrative  talent — a  talent  that  few 
will  have  the  wit  to  understand,  a  talent  of  strength,  spirit, 
capacity,  sufficient  vision,  and  sufficient  self-sacrifice,  which 
last  is  the  chief  point  in  a  narrative." 

And  at  the  end  of  his  next  letter  to  Mr.  Archer  (February, 
1888),  he  says  "  Tell  Shaw  to  hurry  up.    I  want  another." 

Neither  Shaw  nor  Champion  earned  anything  from  that  first 
shilling  edition,  "  which  began  with  a  thousand  copies,  but 
proved  immortal."  Shortly  after  this  first  edition  was  ex- 
hausted, the  publishing  house  of  Walter  Scott  and  Company 

*  Published,  in  part,  in  The  Letters  of  Robert  Louis  Stevenson,  Vol.  II., 
edited  by  Sidney  Colvin. 

53 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

placed  a  revised  shilling  edition  on  the  market;  and  the  book 
was  also  published  in  New  York  at  about  the  same  time  (Harper 
and  Brothers,  New  York,  1887).  Brentanos,  New  York, 
brought  out  an  edition  in  1897,  and  this  was  followed  in  1899 
by  an  edition  of  An  Unsocial  Socialist.0 

The  immediate  cause  of  these  editions  was  the  temporary 
interest  in  the  works  of  Mr.  Shaw,  occasioned  by  Mr.  Richard 
Mansfield's  notable  productions  of  Arms  and  the  Man  and  The 
Devil's  Disciple.  The  publication  of  Plays,  Pleasant  and  Un- 
pleasant, in  two  volumes,  by  H.  S.  Stone  and  Company,  of 
Chicago,  followed  shortly  afterwards.  In  1904,  when  Mr. 
Daly's  production  of  Candida  created  such  a  stir  in  America, 
Mr.  Volney  Streamer,  of  the  firm  of  Brentanos,  a  Shaw  enthusi- 
ast of  many  years'  standing,  used  his  influence  to  have  these 
two  books  reprinted.  None  of  Shaw's  novels  are  copyright  in 
America,  so  that  he  has  never,  it  appears,  reaped  the  reward 
of  the  moderate,  although  intermittent,  vogue  which  his  novels 
have  enjoyed  in  that  country.  It  is  a  fact  of  common  knowl- 
edge that  Shaw  prefers  to  be  judged  by  his  later  work;  but 
the  demand  in  America  for  these  novels  has  been  so  large  that 
they  are  likely  to  be  published  for  years  yet  to  come.  In  1889 
or  1890,  it  must  have  been,  Shaw  happened  to  notice  that  his 
novels  were  "  raging  in  America,"  and  that  the  list  of  book  sales 
in  one  of  the  United  States  was  headed  by  a  novel  entitled 
An  Unsocial  Socialist.  In  the  preface  to  the  "  Authorized  Edi- 
tion "  of  Cashel  Byron's  Profession,  which  contains  the  history 
of  the  life  and  death  of  the  novels,  Mr.  Shaw  says,  "  As  it  was 
clearly  unfair  that  my  own  American  publishers  (H.  S.  Stone 
and  Company)  should  be  debarred  by  delicacy  towards  me  from 
exploiting  the  new  field  of  derelict  fiction,  I  begged  them  to 
make  the  most  of  their  inheritance ;  and  with  my  full  approval 
Opus  3,  called  4  Love  Among  the  Artists  '  (a  paraphrase  of  the 
forgotten  line  '  Love  Among  the  Roses  ')  followed."  f 

*  The  New  York  Herald  contained  the  statement  that  "  Brentanos  have 
done  a  service  to  literature  in  reprinting  two  of  Shaw's  novels  that  are 
strangely  unfamiliar  to   the   American  public." 

f This  book  was  published  in  1900,  followed  in  1901  by  the  "Authorized 
Edition"  of  Cashel  Byron's  Profession  (also  published  by  H.  S.  Stone  and 


LONDON 

This  third  act  of  Shaw's  "  tragedy,"  as  he  calls  it,  is  by  no 
means  the  end  of  the  play;  as  with  Thomas  Hardy's  endless 
dramas,  the  curtain  may  never  be  rung  down.  One  might 
imagine  that  Shaw,  the  Socialist,  required  the  patience  of  a  Job 
and  the  self -repression  of  a  stoic  to  enable  him  to  restrain  his 
anger  over  the  diversion  of  the  rewards  of  his  talent  from  his 
own  to  the  pockets  of  Capitalist  publishers,  free  of  all  obliga- 
tion to  the  author.  But  he  accepts  his  fate  with  breezy 
philosophy. 

"  I  may  say,"  he  wrote  to  Harper  and  Brothers  (who  had 
published  his  Cashel  ByrorCs  Profession)  in  November,  1899, 
"  that  I  entirely  disagree  with  the  ideas  of  twenty  years  ago 
as  to  the  '  piratical '  nature  of  American  republications  of  non- 
copyright  books.  Unlike  most  authors,  I  am  enough  of  an 
economist  to  know  that  unless  an  American  publisher  acquires 
copyright  he  can  no  more  make  a  profit  at  my  expense  than 
he  can  at  Shakspere's  by  republishing  Hamlet.  The  English 
nation,  when  taxed  for  the  support  of  the  author  by  a  price 
which  includes  author's  royalties,  whilst  the  American  nation 
escapes  that  burden,  may  have  a  grievance  against  the  Amer- 
ican nation,  but  that  is  a  very  different  thing  from  a  grievance 
of  the  author  against  the  American  publisher."  * 

"  Suffice  it  to  say  here  that  there  can  be  no  doubt  now  that 
the  novels  so  long  left  for  dead  in  the  forlorn-hope  magazines 
of  the  eighties  have  arisen  and  begun  to  propagate  themselves 

Co.),  which  contains  the  above-quoted  remark.  In  the  autumn  of  1901, 
Grant  Richards,  at  the  time  the  English  publisher  of  almost  all  of  Mr. 
Shaw's  works,  also  brought  out  a  revised  edition  of  Cashel  Byron's  Profes- 
sion. In  the  autumn  of  1904  The  Irrational  Knot  was  for  the  first  time 
published  in  book  form  by  Archibald  Constable  and  Co.,  Mr.  Shaw's  Eng- 
lish publishers  at  present.  In  1905  The  Irrational  Knot  was  published  in 
America  by   Brentanos. 

*  On  publishing  his  Cashel  Byron's  Profession,  Harper  and  Brothers  sent 
Mr.  Shaw  ten  pounds  in  recognition  of  his  moral  right  as  an  author  to 
share  any  profits  the  book  might  yield.  There  were  then  no  international 
copyright  laws  in  force,  and  the  works  of  foreign  authors  were  not  pro- 
tected in  America.  When  Mr.  Shaw  learned  that  this  same  book  had  been 
republished  by  another  American  house,  he  sent  back  to  Harper  and 
Brothers  the  ten  pounds,  with  thanks  for  its  use,  explaining  that  since 
the  book  had  been  republished  by  another  firm,  even  his  moral  claim  to 
recognition  by  the  original  American  publishers  had  lapsed. 

55 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

vigorously  throughout  the  New  World  at  the  rate  of  a  dollar 
and  a  half  per  copy,  free  of  all  royalty  to  the  flattered  author." 
He  begs  for  absolution  from  blame  "  if  these  exercises  of  a  raw 
apprentice  break  loose  again  and  insist  on  their  right  to  live. 
The  world  never  did  know  chalk  from  cheese  in  the  matter  of 
art ;  and,  after  all,  since  it  is  only  the  young  and  old  who  have 
time  to  read — the  rest  being  too  busy  living — my  exercises  may 
be  fitter  for  the  market  than  my  masterpieces." 

In  1883,  when  the  last  of  the  novels  of  his  nonage  was  com- 
pleted, Shaw  was  still  striking  in  the  dark.  He  had  not  yet 
found  the  opening  into  the  light,  the  portal  giving  out  from  the 
stuffy  world  of  imaginative  lying  into  the  great  world  of  real 
life — a  life  of  pleasurable  activity,  strenuous  endeavour,  and 
high  achievement.  He  found  his  way  out  by  following  an  insist- 
ent summons — the  clarion  call  of  Henry  George.  And  when, 
having  doffed  the  swaddling  clothes  of  romance,  he  emerged 
from  the  dim  retreat  of  his  imagination,  it  was  to  find  himself 
standing  in  the  dazzling  light  of  a  new  day — the  day  of  Social- 
ism, of  the  Fabian  Society,  and — of  George  Bernard  Shaw. 


56 


THE  NOVELIST 


"London  was  not  ripe  for  me.  Nor  was  I  ripe  for  London.  I  was  in 
an  impossible  position.  I  was  a  foreigner — an  Irishman,  the  most  foreign 
of  all  foreigners  when  he  has  not  gone  through  the  University  mill.  I  was 
.  .  .  not  uneducated;  but,  unfortunately,  what  I  knew  was  exactly  what 
the  educated  Englishman  didn't  know  or  didn't  believe." — George  Bernard 
Shaw:  an  Interview.    In  The  Chap-Book,  November,  1896. 


y 


CHAPTER  III 

AS  a  young  man  of  twenty-four,  Bernard  Shaw  began  to 
evolve  a  moral  code.  He  perceived  in  those  phases  of 
contemporary  existence  which  either  intimately  touched  his  life 
or  daily  challenged  his  critical  scrutiny,  a  shocking  discrepancy 
between  things  as  they  are  and  things  as  they  should  be.  He 
has  never  been  a  "  whole  hogger,"  like  Pope  or  Omar  Khayyam : 
he  neither  believed  that  whatever  is  is  right  nor  wished  to 
shatter  this  sorry  scheme  of  things  entire.  The  arch-foe  of 
idealism,  he  paradoxically  prefaced  his  attack  by  hoisting  the 
banner  of  an  ideal.  Shaw  has  spent  more  than  a  quarter  of  a 
century  in  formulating  his  ideal,  in  attempting  to  concretize  his 
individual  code  into  a  universal  ethical  system. 

Let  us  not  fall  into  the  crass  error  of  supposing  that  Shaw 
has  never  come  under  the  spell  of  the  fascination  of  idealism 
and  romance.  Shaw  the  realist  paid  his  toll  to  Romance  before 
the  moral  passion  ever  dawned  upon  his  soul.  Just  as  Zola 
always  bore  the  brand  of  Hugo,  just  as  Ibsen  worked  his  way 
through  romance  to  real  life,  so  Shaw  found  his  feet  in  realism 
only  after  tripping  several  times  over  the  novels  of  a  romantic 
imagination.  Shaw's  novels  are  the  products  of  a  riotous  and 
fanciful  imagination,  if  not,  as  he  dubs  them,  the  compounds 
of  ignorance  and  intuition.  In  a  celebrated  discussion  with  Mr. 
W.  H.  Mallock,  we  have  Shaw's  frank  confession: 

"  We  are  both  novelists,  privileged  as  such  to  make  fancy  \S 
pictures  of  Society  and  individuals,  and  to  circulate  them 
as  narratives  of  things  that  have  actually  been;  and  the 
critics  will  gravely  find  fault  with  our  fictitious  law,  or  our 
fictitious  history,  or  our  fictitious  psychology,  if  we  depart 
therein  from  perfect  verisimilitude.  Why  have  we  this 
extraordinary  privilege?  Because,  I  submit,  we  are  both 
natural-born  tellers  Of  the  thing  that  is  not.    Not,  observe, 

59 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

vulgar  impostors  who  lie  for  motives  of  gain,  to  extort 
alms,  to  conceal  or  excuse  discreditable  facts  in  our  history, 
to  glorify  ourselves,  to  facilitate  the  sale  of  a  horse,  or  to 
avoid  unpleasantness.  All  humanity  lies  like  that,  more  or 
less.  But  Mr.  Mallock  and  I  belong  to  those  who  lie  for 
the  sheer  love  of  lying,  who  forsake  everything  else  for  it, 
who  put  into  it  laborious  extra  touches  of  art  for  which 
there  is  no  extra  pay,  whose  whole  life,  if  it  were  looked 
into  closely  enough,  would  be  found  to  have  been  spent 
more  in  the  world  of  fiction  than  of  reality."  * 

Shaw  has  somewhere  placed  on  record  his  boast  that  such 
insight  as  he  had  in  criticism  was  due  to  the  fact  that  he  ex- 
hausted romanticism  before  he  was  ten  years  old.  "  Your  pop- 
ular novelists,"  he  contemptuously  declared,  "  are  now  gravely 
writing  the  stories  I  told  to  myself  before  I  replaced  my  first 
set  of  teeth.  Some  day  I  will  try  to  found  a  genuine  psychology 
of  fiction  by  writing  down  the  history  of  my  imagined  life, 
duels,  battles,  love-affairs  with  queens  and  all.  They  say  that 
man  in  embryo  is  successively  a  fish,  a  bird,  a  mammal,  and  so 
on,  before  he  develops  into  a  man.  Well,  popular  novel-writing 
is  the  fish  stage  of  your  Jonathan  Swift.  I  have  never  been 
so  dishonest  as  to  sneer  at  our  popular  novelists.  I  once  went 
on  like  that  myself.  Why  does  the  imaginative  man  always  end 
by  writing  comedy  if  only  he  has  also  a  sense  of  reality  ?  Clearly 
because  of  the  stupendous  irony  of  the  contrast  between  his 
imaginary  adventures  and  his  real  circumstances  and  powers. 
At  night,  a  conquering  hero,  an  Admirable  Crichton,  a  Don 
Juan;  by  day,  a  cowardly  little  brat  cuffed  by  his  nurse  for 
stealing  lumps  of  sugar.  .  .  .  My  real  name,"  he  added,  "  is 
Alnaschar."  f 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  Shaw  has  anticipated  his  exhaustion  of 
romanticism  by  some  seventeen  years.  It  was  not  until  he  fin- 
ished the  novels  of  his  nonage  that  he  could  justly  boast  of 

*  On  Mr.  Mallock's  Proposed  Trumpet  Performance.  In  the  Fortnightly 
Review,  April,  1894. 

t  Who  I  Am,  and  What  I  Think.  Part  I.  In  the  Candid  Friend,  May 
11th,  1901. 

60 


THE  NOVELIST 

having  "  worked  off  "  that  romanticism  which  always  appears 
to  be  latent  in  every  creative  imagination  in  the  stage  of 
incipiency.  Remember  what  Stevenson  wrote  to  William  Archer 
of  Cashel  Byron's  Profession: 

"  As  a  whole,  it  is  (of  course)  a  fever  dream  of  the  most 
feverish.  .  .  .  It  is  all  mad,  mad  and  deliriously  delight- 
ful; the  author  has  a  taste  in  chivalry  like  Walter  Scott's 
or  Dumas's,  and  then  he  daubs  in  little  bits  of  Socialism ; 
he  soars  away  on  the  wings  of  the  romantic  griffon — even 
the  griffon,  as  he  cleaves  air,  shouting  with  laughter  at  the 
nature  of  the  quest — and  I  believe  in  his  heart  he  thinks 
he  is  labouring  in  a  quarry  of  solid  granite  realism. 

"  It  is  this  that  makes  me — the  most  hardened  adviser 
now  extant — stand  back  and  hold  my  peace.  If  Mr.  Shaw 
is  below  five-and-twenty,  let  him  go  his  path;  if  he  is 
thirty,  he  had  best  be  told  that  he  is  a  romantic,  and  pursue 
romance  with  his  eyes  open;  perhaps  he  knows  it;  God 
knows ! — my  brain  is  softened."  * 

It  is  all  very  well  for  Shaw  to  say  that  he  used  Bizet's  Carmen 
as  a  safety  valve  for  his  romantic  impulses.  But  the  testimony 
of  his  own  novels  flatly  contradicts  his  complacent  assertion 
that  he  was  romantic  enough  to  have  come  to  the  end  of  romance 
before  he  began  to  create  in  art  for  himself. 

These  novels,  in  spite  of  their  youthful  romanticism,  never- 
theless constitute  the  record  of  the  adventures  of  an  earnest 
and  anarchic  young  man,  with  a  knack  of  keen  observation  and 
terse  protraiture,  striving  to  give  voice  to  and  interpret  the 
spirit  of  the  century.  When  someone,  in  1892,  suggested  that 
Shaw  was,  of  course,  a  follower  of  Ibsen,  Shaw  replied  with  a 
great  show  of  indignation :  "  What !  I  a  follower  of  Ibsen  !  My 
good  sir,  as  far  as  England  is  concerned,  Ibsen  is  a  follower 
of  mine.  In  1880,  when  I  was  only  twenty-four,  I  wrote  a  book 
called  *  The  Irrational  Knot,'  which   reads  nowadays  like  an 

*  The  Letters  of  B.  L.  Stevenson,  Vol.  II.  Edited  by  Sidney  Colvin, 
pp.  107  et  seq. 

61 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Ibsenite  novel."  And  in  the  postscript  to  the  preface  to  the 
new  edition  of  that  novel,  after  having  declared  with  familiar 
Shavian  wiliness  in  the  preface  that  he  "  couldn't  stand  "  his 
own  book,  he  makes  a  sudden  bouleversement  as  follows :  "  Since 
writing  the  above  I  have  looked  through  the  proof-sheets  of 
this  book,  and  found,  with  some  access  of  respect  for  my  youth, 
that  it  is  a  fiction  of  the  first  order.  .  .  .  It  is  one  of  those 
fictions  in  which  the  morality  is  original  and  not  ready-made. 
...  I  seriously  suggest  that  '  The  Irrational  Knot '  may  be 
regarded  as  an  early  attempt  on  the  part  of  the  life  force  to 
write  6  A  Doll's  House  '  in  English  by  the  instrumentality  of 
a  very  immature  writer  aged  twenty-four.  And  though  I  say 
it  that  should  not,  the  choice  was  not  such  a  bad  shot  for  a 
stupid  instinctive  force  that  has  to  work  and  become  conscious 
of  itself  by  means  of  human  brains." 

With  all  its  immaturity,  The  Irrational  Knot  is  undoubtedly 
in  the  "  tone  of  our  time."  It  is  the  ill-chosen  title,  however, 
rather  than  the  contents  which  recalls  Nora  and  Torvald.  The 
institution  of  marriage  is  not  shown  to  be  irrational;  Shaw's 
shafts  were  aimed  at  the  code  of  social  morality  which  renders 
marriages  such  as  the  one  described  inevitable  failures.  Shaw 
not  only  seeks  to  expose  the  fatal  inconsistencies  of  this  social 
code,  but  also  damns  the  feeble  shams  with  which  Society  at- 
tempts to  bolster  up  those  inconsistencies. 

Endowed  with  much  of  the  bluntness  of  Bluntschli,  but  with 
an  added  sensitiveness,  the  "  hero  "  of  this  novel  may  be  de- 
scribed as  the  crude  and  repellent  prototype  of  the  later  Shavian 
males.  Believing  more  in  force  than  in  savoir  faire,  in  brutal 
sincerity  than  in  conventional  graces,  Conolly  stands  out  for 
literal  truth  and  violent  tactlessness  as  against  social  propriety 
and  observance  of  les  convenances.  He  is  acting  with  perfect 
validity  to  himself  when  he  says,  in  answer  to  the  question  as 
to  what  he  is  going  to  do  about  his  wife's  elopement  with  a 
former  lover :  "  Eat  my  supper.  I  am  as  hungry  as  a  bear." 
After  Marian's  desertion  by  her  lover,  Conolly  urges  her  to 
return  to  him,  assuring  her  that  now  she  is  just  the  wife  he 
wants,  since  she  is  at  last  rid  of  "  fashionable  society,  of  her 
family,  her  position,  her  principles,  and  all  the  rest  of  her  chains 

62 


THE  NOVELIST 

for  ever."  Marian  refuses,  because  she  cannot  "  respect  herself 
for  breaking  loose  from  what  is  called  her  duty."  Their 
definitive  words  epitomize  the  failure  of  their  life  together. 

"  '  You  are  too  wise,  Ned,'  she  said,  suffering  him  to  replace 
her  gently  in  the  chair. 

"  c  It  is  impossible  to  be  too  wise,  dearest,'  he  said,  and  un- 
hesitatingly turned  and  left  her." 

The  subjects  which  inspired  Shaw's  maturer  genius  are  the 
same  subjects  which  so  actively,  if  crudely  and  imperfectly, 
struggle  for  expression  in  this  early  work.  Much  acuteness  is 
exhibited  by  the  young  man  of  twenty-four  in  spying  out  the 
weak  points  in  the  armour  of  "  that  corporate  knave,  Society." 
When  the  "  high-bred  "  wife  of  the  "  self-made  "  man  elopes 
with  a  "  gentleman,"  Society's  dismay  is  only  feigned.  Like 
Roebuck  Ramsden,  Marian's  relatives  are  quite  willing  to  for- 
give, and  even  to  thank,  the  cur  if  he  will  only  marry  her:  by 
ousting  a  rank  outsider  like  Conolly,  Douglas  appears  to  So- 
ciety almost  in  the  light  of  a  champion  of  its  cause.  Shaw 
was  too  close  an  observer  of  life,  even  at  twenty-four,  to  attempt 
to  make  out  a  case  against  matrimony  by  celebrating  the  success 
of  an  unblessed  union.  His  point  is  turned  against  Society, 
less  for  upholding  traditional  morality  than  for  making  the 
preservation  of  its  class  distinctions  its  highest  laws.  Society 
is  ready  enough  to  forgive  Douglas;  but  Marmaduke  Lind,  in 
setting  up  an  unblessed  union  with  Conolly's  sister,  Mademoiselle 
Lalage  Virtue,  of  the  Bijou  Theatre,  places  himself  beyond  the 
pale.  For  she  is  socially  "  impossible  " ;  and,  consequently,  there 
can  be  no  relenting  towards  Marmaduke  until  he  return,  and, 
in  the  odour  of  sanctity  and  respectability,  marry  Lady  Con- 
stance Carberry ! 

The  Irrational  Knot  cannot  be  called  novel  on  account  of 
its  rather  commonplace  thought  that  "  a  girl  who  lives  in  Bel- 
gravia  ought  not  to  marry  with  a  man  who  is  familiar  with  the 
Mile  End  Road."  But  as  Mr.  W.  L.  Courtney  suggestively 
remarks :  "  What  is  novel  is  the  illustration,  in  clever  and 
mordant  fashion,  of  the  absurd  folly  and  wastefulness  of  social 
conditions  which  obstinately  make  intelligence  subservient  to 
aristocratic  prestige.     Even  in  our  much-abused  country  there 

63 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

is,  and  has  been  for  a  long  time,  a  career  open  for  talent;  but 
the  aspiring  male  must  not  encumber  himself  by  taking  a  partner 
out  of  ranks  to  which  he  does  not  belong.  Thus,  4  The  Irra- 
tional Knot '  is  nothing  more  nor  less  than  an  early  tract  in 
defence  of  Socialism  or  Communism,  or  whatever  other  term 
should  be  applied  to  theories  which  seek  to  equalize  the  chances 
and  opportunities  of  human  beings."  In  The  Irrational  Knot 
are  found  the  marks  of  that  individual  mode  of  observing  and 
reflecting  life,  which  is  popularly  denominated  "  Shavian." 
Here  is  the  first  clear  testimony  to  that  rationalistic  mood  in 
Shaw  which  permeates  so  much  of  his  subsequent  work.  And 
yet  this  book  contains  intimations  of  that  deeper  philosophy  of 
life  which  conceives  of  rationality  merely  as  an  instrumentality 
for  carrying  out  its  designs.  This  knot  is  irrational  only 
because  it  is  too  rational.  Marian  shrinks  from  reconcilement 
with  Conolly:  she  cannot  breathe  in  the  icy  atmosphere  of  his 
rationalistic  cocksureness.  Conolly  expresses  Shaw's  funda- 
mental protestantism  in  his  assertion  that  Marian's  ill-considered 
flight  with  Douglas  was  the  first  sensible  action  of  her  whole 
life.  It  was  admirable  in  his  eyes  because  it  was  her  first 
vigorous  assertion  of  will,  of  vital  purpose.  The  human  being 
can  and  will  find  freedom  only  in  overriding  convention,  repudi- 
ating "  duty,"  and  solving  every  problem  in  terms  of  its  own 
factors.  The  book,  indeed,  is  marked  less  by  immaturity  of 
thought  than  by  crudeness  of  execution.  The  characters  are 
deficient  in  the  flexibility  and  pliancy  of  human  beings,  and  the 
book  lacks  suggestion  of  "  the  slow,  irregular  rhythm  of  life," 
of  which  Henry  James  somewhere  speaks.  To  Shaw,  the  de- 
piction of  Conolly  was  evidently  a  labour  of  love;  and,  conse- 
quently, we  have  an  execution  of  force,  if  not  always  of 
convincing  veracity.  Elinor  McQuinch,  shrewd,  sharp-tongued, 
acid — the  familiar  advocatus  diaboli,  and  Shaw  in  petticoats  of 
the  later  Shavian  drama — is  delightfully  refreshing  in  her 
piquancy,  and  truly  Ibsenic  in  her  determination  to  "  be  her- 
self." The  nascent  dramatist  often  speaks  out  in  this  book — 
note  the  melodramatic  Lalage  Virtue — but  nowhere  more  char- 
acteristically than  in  the  trenchant  deliverance  of  the  justly- 
vexed  Elinor : 

64 


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Love  Among  tlie  Artists. 


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THE  NOVELIST 

"  Henceforth  Uncle  Reginald  is  welcome  to  my  heartiest 
detestation.  I  have  been  waiting  ever  since  I  knew  him 
for  an  excuse  to  hate  him;  and  now  he  has  given  me  one. 
He  has  taken  part — like  a  true  parent — against  you  with 
a  self -intoxicated  young  fool  whom  he  ought  to  have  put 
out  of  the  house.  He  has  told  me  to  mind  my  own  business. 
I  shall  be  even  with  him  for  that  some  day.  I  am  as  vindic- 
tive as  an  elephant :  I  hate  people  who  are  not  vindictive ; 
they  are  never  grateful  either,  only  incapable  of  any  endur- 
ing sentiment.  .  .  .  I  am  thoroughly  well  satisfied  with 
myself  altogether;  at  last  I  have  come  out  of  a  scene 
without  having  forgotten  the  right  thing  to  say !  " 

Imagination  lingers  fondly,  as  Mr.  Hubert  Bland  once  re- 
marked, over  the  spectacle  of  Elinor  standing  in  the  middle  of 
the  stage,  three-quarters  face  to  the  audience,  and  firing  off 
those  acute  generalizations  about  people  who  are  not  vindictive. 
Shaw's  cleverness  has  begun  thus  early  to  betray  him ;  a  number 
of  the  characters  are  smart,  but  quite  unnatural.  The  "  Lit- 
erary Great-grandfather "  of  the  present  Shaw  unerringly 
pointed  out  many  of  the  weak  spots  of  Society ;  but  his  funda- 
mental Socialism,  impatient  of  class  distinctions  and  social  bar- 
riers, leads  him  occasionally  into  crude  caricature.  The  book's 
greatest  fault  lies,  perhaps,  in  the  fact  that  his  characters  em- 
ploy, not  the  natural,  ductile  speech  of  to-day,  but  the  stilted 
diction  of  Dumas  and  Scott. 

Commonplace  as  is  the  characterization,  Shaw's  next  novel, 
Love  Among  the  Artists,  is  a  tract — less  a  novel  than  a  critical 
essay  with  a  purpose,  in  narrative  form.  Shaw  confesses  that 
he  wrote  this  book  for  the  purpose  of  illustrating  "  the  differ- 
ence between  that  enthusiasm  for  the  fine  arts  which  people 
gather  from  reading  about  them,  and  the  genuine  artistic 
faculty  which  cannot  help  creating,  interpreting,  or,  at  least, 
unaffectedly  enjoying  music  and  pictures." 

I  have  often  wondered  if  it  might  not  be  possible  for  one  who 
did  not  know  Shaw  personally  to  construct  a  quite  credible 
biography  by  making  a  composite  of  the  peculiarly  Shavian 
types  presented  in  his  novels  and  plays.    Without  carrying  the 

67 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

analogy  to  extremes,  I  think  it  mediately  true  that  Shaw  has 
one  by  one  exhibited,  in  semi-autobiographic  form,  the  distin- 
guishing hall-marks  of  his  individual  and  many-sided  char- 
acter. To  what  extent  Owen  Jack  is  a  projection  of  the  Shaw 
of  this  period,  how  graphically,  if  unconsciously,  Shaw  has 
revealed  in  this  droll  original  his  own  ideals  of  music  and  his 
defence  of  a  certain  impudently  exasperating  assertiveness  of 
manner  in  himself,  is  difficult  to  decide.  Shaw  insists  that  Jack 
is  partly  founded  on  Beethoven.  And  yet  there  is  an  undoubted 
resemblance  between  the  real  Irishman  and  the  imagined  Welsh- 
man who  plays  the  Hyde  of  Jack  to  the  Jekyll  of  Shaw.  Like 
"  C.  di  B."  and  G.  B.  S.,  Jack  is  the  first  of  the  "  privileged 
lunatics."  He  scorns  the  pedantry  of  the  schools,  sneers  at 
mechanical  music  of  academic  origin,  jibes  at  "  analytic  criti- 
cism," and  fiercely  denounces  the  antiquated  views  of  the  musical 
organizations  of  England,  with  their  old  fogeyism,  their  cow- 
ardice in  the  face  of  novelty,  their  dread  of  innovation,  and 
their  cringing  subservience  to  obsolescent  and  outworn  models. 
Like  Shaw,  Jack  is  always  tolerant  of  sincerity,  always  sym- 
pathetic with  true  effort,  unrestrainedly  enthusiastic  over  any 
vital  outpouring  of  the  creative  spirit;  rebuking  tyranny 
wherever  he  sees  it,  exposing  falsehood  whenever  he  hears  it, 
eternally  vigilant  in  exposing  frauds  and  unmasking  shams. 
And  yet,  with  all  his  offensive  brusqueness,  fierce  intolerance,  and 
colossal  self-sufficiency,  gentle-hearted,  compassionate,  and,  in 
the  presence  of  beauty,  deeply  humble. 

Shaw  once  called  Love  Among  the  Artists  a  novel  with  a 
purpose.  Viewed  from  another  standpoint,  it  is  a  collection  of 
types,  a  study  in  temperaments.  The  author  preaches  the  arro- 
gance of  genius  as  opposed  to  a  false  humility  in  the  presence  of 
great  art  works.  The  shallow  artist,  Adrian  Herbert,  "  spends 
whole  days  in  explaining  to  you  what  a  man  of  genius  is  and 
feels,  knowing  neither  the  one  nor  the  other  " ;  Mary  Sutherland 
never  surpasses  mediocrity  as  an  artist  because  her  knowledge  is 
based  upon  hearsay  instead  of  upon  experience.  She  stands  in 
sharp  contrast  to  Madge  Brailsford,  who  tersely  puts  her  case 
to  Mary — the  case,  one  might  say,  of  the  whole  book — "  If 
you  don't  like  your  own  pictures,  depend  upon  it  no  one  else  will. 

68 


THE  NOVELIST 

I  am  going  to  be  an  actress  because  I  think  I  can  act.  You 
are  going  to  be  a  painter  because  you  think  you  can't  paint." 
Mr.  Huneker  declares  that  Mary  Sutherland,  "  lymphatically 
selfish  and  utterly  unsympathetic,"  is  his  prime  favourite  in  the 
story.  "  Her  taste  in  flaring  colours,  her  feet,  her  habit  of 
breathing  heavily  when  aroused  emotionally,  her  cowardices,  her 
artistic  failures,  her  eye-glasses,  her  treacly  sentiment — what 
a  study  of  the  tribe  artistic !  And  truly  British  withal."  The 
only  other  noteworthy  figure  in  the  book  is  the  evasive,  elusive 
Mademoiselle  Szczymplica — a  study  searching  in  the  closeness 
and  delicacy  of  its  observation.  This  charming  and  piquant 
Polish  pianist,  although  emanating  poetry  and  romance,  has,  as 
she  puts  it,  the  "  soul  commercial "  within  her.  She  cannot 
see  why,  even  if  she  does  love  her  husband,  she  should  therefore 
dispense  with  her  piano  practice ! 

Unlike  the  classic  model  for  a  play,  this  novel  has  neither 
beginning,  middle,  nor  ending;  and  yet  it  has  many  brilliantly 
executed  scenes.  Who  could  ever  forget  the  street  fight  in  Paris, 
the  humorous  "  love-scene "  between  Madge  Brailsford  and 
Owen  Jack,  and  the  rehearsal,  so  acute  in  its  satire — fitting 
companion-piece  to  the  Wagner  lecture  in  Cashel  Byron's  Pro- 
fession? 

It  is  noteworthy  that  Love  Among  the  Artists  heralds  a 
favourite  thesis  of  Shaw's — the  natural  antipathy  between  blood 
relations — a  thesis  expounded  many  years  later  by  John  Tanner 
in  the  rather  leaden  epigram  "  I  suspect  that  the  tables  of 
consanguinity  have  a  natural  basis  in  a  natural  repugnance." 
Cashel  Byron  is  always  catching  himself  in  the  act  of  "  shying  " 
when  his  mother  is  around — she  used  to  throw  things  at  him 
when  he  was  a  boy !  Blanche  Sartorius  is  quite  ready  to  hate 
her  father  at  a  moment's  notice;  no  love  is  lost  between  Julia 
and  Colonel  Craven;  Vivie  Warren  stands  out  determinedly 
against  her  mother's  authority;  and  Frank,  with  nauseating 
levity,  takes  great  delight  in  "jollying"  his  reprobate  father 
upon  the  indiscretions  of  his  youth.  Phil  and  Dolly  are  breezily 
disrespectful  of  parental  rule;  and  Anne  uses  her  maudlin 
mother  as  an  excuse  to  do  just  whatever  she  wants.  The  thesis 
is  part  of  Shaw's   stock-in-trade,   and   might  be  regarded  as 

69 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

a  mere  comic  motif,  were  it  not  for  the  "  damnable  iteration  " 
of  the  thing.  Adrian  Herbert  avows  his  positive  dislike  for  his 
mother,  because,  as  he  affirms,  their  natures  are  antagonistic, 
their  views  of  life  and  duty  incompatible — because  they  have 
nothing  in  common.  We  must  take  Shaw's  insistence  upon 
incompatibility  of  temperament  between  blood-relations  with  a 
good  many  grains  of  salt.  It  is  not  even  half  true  that  every 
mother  tries  to  defeat  every  cherished  project  of  her  sons  "  by 
sarcasms,  by  threats,  and,  failing  these,  by  cajolery";  that 
everyone's  childhood  has  been  "  embittered  by  the  dislike  of  his 
mother  and  the  ill-temper  of  his  father " ;  that  every  man's 
wife  soon  ceases  to  care  for  him  and  that  he  soon  tires  of  her; 
that  every  man's  brother  goes  to  law  with  him  over  the  division 
of  the  family  property ;  and  that  every  man's  son  acts  in  studied 
defiance  of  his  plans  and  wishes.  These  things  are  only  true 
enough  to  be  funny;  just  enough  of  them  happen  in  real  life 
to  give  Shaw's  thesis  a  sort  of  comic  plausibility.  It  is  the 
phrases,  "  love  is  eternal,"  and  "  blood  is  thicker  than  water," 
rather  than  the  facts  themselves,  which  make  the  iconoclastic 
Shaw  see  red.  I  find  some  explanation  of  his  view  in  pardonable 
revolt,  as  a  dramatist,  against  that  persistent  superstition  of 
French  melodrama — the  voix  du  sang.  Some  explanation  of 
Shaw's  views  in  the  matter  may  possibly  be  found  in  the  facts 
of  his  own  personal  experience;  at  any  rate,  he  once  said  that 
the  word  education  brought  to  his  mind  four  successive  schools 
where  his  parents  got  him  out  of  the  way  for  half  a  day.  Indeed, 
his  campaign  against  the  modern  system  of  education  springs 
from  his  recently  expressed  disgust  with  educators  for  conceal- 
ing the  fact  that  "  the  real  object  of  that  system  is  to  relieve 
parents  from  the  insufferable  company  and  anxious  care  of  their 
children."     Continuing  in  the  same  strain,  he  says: 

"  Until  it  is  frankly  recognized  that  children  are  nui- 
sances to  adults  except  at  playful  moments,  and  that  the 
first  social  need  that  arises  from  the  necessary  existence  of 
children  in  a  community  is  that  there  should  be  some  ade- 
quate defence  of  the  comparative  quiet  and  order  of  adult 
life  against  the  comparative  noise,  racket,  untidiness,  in- 

70 


THE  NOVELIST 

quisitiveness,  restlessness,  fitfulness,  shiftlessness,  dirt,  de- 
struction and  mischief,  which  are  healthy  and  natural  for 
children,  and  which  are  no  reason  for  denying  them  the 
personal  respect  without  which  their  characters  cannot 
grow  and  set  properly,  we  shall  have  the  present  pretence 
of  inexhaustible  parental  tenderness,  moulding  of  character, 
inculcation  of  principles,  and  so  forth,  to  cloak  the  im- 
prisoning, drilling,  punishing,  tormenting,  brigading,  boy 
and  girl  farming,  which  saves  those  who  can  afford  it  from 
having  to  scream  ten  times  every  hour,  '  Stop  that  noise, 
Tommy,  or  I'll  clout  your  head  for  you.'  "  * 

With  gradual,  yet  unhalting  steps,  Shaw  works  his  way  to 
those  startling  and  topsy-turvy  theories  which  are  so  delight- 
fully credible  to  the  intellect uels  and  so  bewilder ingly  exasperat- 
ing to  the  Philistines.  In  Love  Among  the  Artists,  Madge 
Brailsford's  open  avowal  to  Owen  Jack  of  her  love  for  him 
gives  a  hint  that  the  theory  of  woman  as  the  huntress  and  man  ^ 
as  the  quarry  is  upon  us.  But  quite  the  contrary  course  is  taken 
in  Cashel  Byron 's  Profession,  Shaw's  next  novel.  Cashel  Byron, 
the  perfect  pugilist,  fights  his  way  into  the  good  graces  of  the 
"  high-born  "  heiress,  Lydia  Carew,  by  the  straight  exhibition  of 
his  physical  prowess.  The  whole  book  is  conceived  in  such 
broadly  satirical  vein  that  it  is  impossible  for  me  to  accept  it 
as  anything  except  a  boyishly  irrepressible  pasquinade.  For- 
tunately, the  "  little  bits  of  Socialism  that  were  daubed  in  "  here 
and  there  at  first,  were  afterwards  deleted ;  the  current  version 
is  a  novel,  pure  and  simple,  with  no  discoverable  Socialistic  thesis 
behind  it.  Shaw's  explanation  that  the  book  was  written  as  an 
offset  to  the  "  abominable  vein  of  retaliatory  violence  "  that  runs 
all  through  the  literature  of  the  nineteenth  century  need  not 
detain  us  here ;  Shaw  has  made  out  his  own  case  with  sufficiently 
paradoxical  cleverness  in  the  inevitable  preface.  He  spends  one- 
half  of  his  time  in  explaining  his  actions  during  the  other  half ; 
and  it  has  even  been  unkindly  hinted  that  each  new  book  of 

*  Does  Modem  Education  Ennoble?     In  Great  Thoughts,  October  7th, 
1905. 

71 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

his  serves  merely  as  an  excuse  for  writing  another  preface. 
And  it  should  be  remembered  that  the  preface  to  Cashel  Byron's 
Profession  was  written  some  eighteen  years  later  than  was  the 
book  itself — ample  time  for  Shaw  to  devise  any  excuse  for 
representing  his  book  as  a  deliberate  challenge  to  British  ideals. 
Suffice  it  to  say  that  a  comparison  of  Cashel  Byron's  Profession 
with  Rodney  Stone,  for  example,  will  make  plain  the  distinction 
between  the  realism  and  the  romance  of  pugilism.  And  while 
Byron's  exhibitions  of  physical  prowess  are  the  most  "  howlingly 
funny  "  incidents  in  the  book,  it  is  nevertheless  true  that  Shaw 
has  done  nothing  to  surround  the  "  noble  art  of  sluggerei  "  with 
any  halo  of  fictitious  romance.*  "  Its  novelty,"  as  Shaw  him- 
self maintains,  "  consists  in  the  fact  that  an  attempt  is  made 
to  treat  the  art  of  punching  seriously,  and  to  detach  it  from 
the  general  elevation  of  moral  character  with  which  the  ordinary 
novelist  persists  in  associating  it." 

The  real  novelty,  and,  indeed,  the  chief  charm,  of  the  book 
consists  rather  in  the  fact  that  no  attempt  is  made  to  treat 
anything  seriously.  So  far  as  the  prize-ring  is  concerned,  the 
book's  realism  is  veracious;  the  rest  is  the  frankest  of  popular 
melodrama.  What  appeals  more  strongly  to  the  popular  heart 
than  a  low-born  but  invincible  slugger  fighting  his  way,  round 
after  round,  to  the  side  of  a  noble  and  fabulously  wealthy 
heroine !  What  more  oracularly  Adelphic  in  its  melodrama  than 
the  "  finger  of  fate  "  upon  the  "  long  arm  of  coincidence  " 
directing  Cashel's  mother  to  the  mansion  of  Miss  Lydia  Carew ! 
And  what  an  exquisite  fulfilment  of  poetic  justice — the  ultimate 
discovery  that  Cashel  is  a  scion  of  one  of  the  oldest  county 
families  in  England,  and  heir  to  a  great  estate !  The  thing  that 
makes  the  book  go,  of  course,  is  its  peculiarly  Shavian  cast — 
the  combination  of  what  Stevenson  called  "  struggling,  overlaid 
original  talent  "  and  "  blooming  gaseous  folly."  Shaw's  sense  of 
dramatic   situation   continually   foreshadows   the   future   play- 

*A  dramatization  of  the  novel,  by  Mr.  Stanislaus  Stange,  was  pro- 
duced with  moderate  success  in  New  York  several  years  ago.  Unique 
interest  attached  to  the  production  because  the  part  of  Cashel  Byron  was 
taken  by  Mr.  James  J.  Corbett,  some  time  pugilistic  champion  of  the 
world — and  incidentally  quite  a  clever  actor.  There  is  much  of  Cashel  in 
Mr.  Corbett,  whose  popular  sobriquet  is  "  Gentleman  Jim." 

72 


THE  NOVELIST 

wright.  The  abounding  humour  of  the  exquisitely  ludicrous 
scene  at  the  reception — the  devastating  comicality  of  the  brute, 
with  his  native  "  mother-wit,"  turned  rough-and-ready  philoso- 
pher! When  Cashel  is  set  down  in  the  midst  of  this  ethical- 
artistic  circle,  he  breezily  excels  all  the  professors — for  he  dis- 
cusses art  positively,  in  the  terminology  of  his  own  profession, 
in  which  he  is  a  past  master.  The  sublime  hardihood  of  eluci- 
dating Beethoven  and  Wagner  in  terms  of  the  pugilistic  art  of 
Jack  Randall!  And  Bashville,  over  whom  Stevenson  howled 
with  derision  and  delight,  what  a  brief  for  democratic  Socialism 
is  Bashville — prototype  for  the  Admirable  Crichton  and  'Enry 
Straker — keenly  conscious  of  his  own  absurdity,  yet  zealously 
standing  out  in  defence  of  his  mistress  and  in  insistence  upon 
the  truly  democratic  doctrine  of  "  equal  rights  for  all,  special 
privileges  for  none."  Who  cannot  sympathize  with  Stevenson : 
"  I  dote  on  Bashville — I  could  read  of  him  for  ever;  de  Bash- 
ville je  suis  le  fervent — there  is  only  one  Bashville,  and  I  am 
his  devoted  slave;  Bashville  est  magnifique,  mais  il  n'est  guere 
possible"  Or  when  he  says :  "  Bashville — O  Bashville !  j'en 
chortle  (which  is  finely  polyglot)."  Service  is  as  sacred  to 
Bashville  as  pugilism  is  to  Cashel.  Each  is  the  "  ideal "  pro- 
fessional man,  who  magnifies  his  office  and  measures  up  to  the 
height  of  his  own  profession.  Each  demands  recognition  for 
fulfilling  to  the  best  of  his  ability  his  own  special  function  in 
life.  Shaw  insists  that  the  real  worth  of  a  man  is  not  to  be 
measured  by  the  social  standing  of  his  profession,  but  in  terms  of 
his  professional  efficiency. 

Shaw's  mastery  of  the  portrayal  of  striking  contrasts  is 
exhibited  in  the  case  of  Cashel  Byron  and  Lydia  Carew.  There 
is  a  strong  hint  of  the  "  female  Yahoo  "  in  Lydia's  avowal  to  her 
aristocratic  suitor :  "  I  practically  believe  in  the  doctrine  of 
heredity ;  and  as  my  body  is  frail  and  my  brain  morbidly  active,  I 
think  my  impulse  towards  a  man  strong  in  body  and  untroubled 
in  mind  is  a  trustworthy  one.  You  can  understand  that;  it  is 
a  plain  proposition  in  eugenics."  This  was  fun  to  Stevenson — 
but  "horrid  fun."  His  postscript  is  laconically  eloquent:  "(I 
say,  Archer,  my  God!  what  women!)"     William  Morris  seems 

73 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

to  have  had  the  rights  in  the  matter  in  describing  Lydia,  to 
Shaw  privately,  as  a  "  prig-ess."  Shaw  grandiloquently  speaks 
of  her  as  "  superhuman  all  through,"  a  "  working  model  "  of  an 
"  improved  type  "  of  womanhood.  "  Let  me  not  deny,  however 
.  .  .  ,"  he  remarks,  "  that  a  post-mortem  examination  by  a 
capable  critical  anatomist — probably  my  biographer — will  reveal 
the  fact  that  her  inside  is  full  of  wheels  and  springs."  The  book 
closes  on  a  mildly  Shavian  note — the  romance  has  dwindled  to 
banality.  "  Cashel's  admiration  for  his  wife  survived  the 
ardour  of  his  first  love  for  her;  and  her  habitual  fore- 
thought saved  her  from  disappointing  his  reliance  on  her 
judgment." 

All  that  was  needed  to  expose  the  threadbare  plot  of  Cashel 
Byron's  Profession  was  The  Admirable  Bashville:  or  Constancy 
Unrewarded — Shaw's  blank-verse  stage  version  of  the  novel. 
This  delightful  jest  was  perpetrated  in  defence  of  the  stage- 
right  of  the  novel,  which  threatened  to  pass  into  unworthy  hands 
through  the  malign  workings  of  that  "  foolish  anomaly,"  the 
English  Copyright  Law.  In  Shaw's  celebrated  lecture  on 
Shakespeare,  at  Kensington  Town  Hall,  section  10,  as  given  in 
his  abstract,  reads  as  follows: 

"  That  to  anyone  with  the  requisite  ear  and  command 
of  words,  blank  verse,  written  under  the  amazingly  loose 
conditions  which  Shakespeare  claimed,  with  full  liberty  to 
use  all  sorts  of  words,  colloquial,  technical,  rhetorical,  and 
obscurely  technical,  to  indulge  in  the  most  far-fetched 
ellipses,  and  to  impress  ignorant  people  with  every  possible 
extremity  of  fantasy  and  affectation,  is  the  easiest  of  all 
known  modes  of  literary  expression,  and  that  this  is  why 
whole  oceans  of  dull  bombast  and  drivel  have  been  emptied 
on  the  heads  of  England  since  Shakespeare's  time  in  this 
form  by  people  who  could  not  have  written  Box  and  Cox 
to  save  their  lives.  Also  (this  on  being  challenged)  that 
I  can  write  blank  verse  myself  more  swiftly  than  prose, 
and  that,  too,  of  full  Elizabethan  quality  plus  the  Shake- 
spearian sense  of  the  absurdity  of  it  as  expressed  in  the 
lines  of  Antient  Pistol.    What  is  more,  that  I  have  done  it, 

74 


THE  NOVELIST 

published  it,  and  had  it  performed  on  the  stage  with  huge 
applause."  * 

Liking  the  "  melodious  sing-song,  the  clear,  simple,  one-line 
and  two-line  sayings,  and  the  occasional  rhymed  tags,  like  the 
half-closes  in  an  eighteenth-century  symphony,  in  Peele,  Kid, 
Greene,  and  the  histories  of  Shakespeare,"  Shaw  quite  naturally 
"  poetasted  The  Admirable  Bashville  in  the  rigmarole  style." 
After  illustrating  how  unspeakably  bad  Shakespearean  blank 
verse  is,  Shaw  ludicrously  claims  that  his  own  is  "  just  as  good." 
Nor  is  it  possible  to  deny  that  his  own  blank  verse  positively 
scintillates  with  the  Shakespearean — or  is  it  Shavian? — sense  of 
its  absurdity.  The  preface  to  The  Admirable  Bashville  has  the 
genuine  Shavian  timbre,  with  its  solemn  fooling,  its  portentous 
levity,  its  false  premisses  and  ludicrous  conclusions.  In  that 
preface,  as  Mr.  Archer  puts  it,  Shaw  "  defends  the  woodenness 
of  his  blank  verse  by  arguing  that  wooden  blank  verse  is  the 
best.  That,  at  any  rate,  is  the  gist  of  his  contention,  though 
he  does  not  put  it  in  just  that  way." 

The  play — for  despite  Shaw's  prefaces,  the  play's  the  thing — 
is  a  truly  admirable  burlesque  of  rhetorical  drama.  Not  Bash- 
ville, but  Cashel  only  is  admirable ;  it  is  Cashel's  constancy  that 
is  rewarded.  The  piece  is  couched  in  a  tone  of  the  most  delicious 
extravagance — a  hit,  a  palpable  hit,  in  every  line.  I  cannot 
resist  the  temptation  to  quote  from  the  scene  in  which  Lydia, 
Lucian,  and  Bashville,  fast  locked  against  intrusion,  debate  the 
question  of  admitting  Cashel,  the  presumably  infuriated  ruffian, 
who  has  just  been  successfully  tripped  up  by  Bashville  as  he  is 
trying  to  enter  the  Carew  mansion. 

Lydia  :     We  must  not  fail  in  courage  with  a  fighter. 

Unlock  the  door. 
Lucian  :  Like  all  women,  Lydia, 

You  have  the  courage  of  immunity. 

To  strike  you  were  against  his  code  of  honour ; 

But  me,  above  the  belt,  he  may  perform  on 

T'  th'  height  of  his  profession.    Also  Bashville. 

* Bernard  Shaw  Abashed.    In  the  Daily  News,  April  17th,  1905. 

75 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Bashville  :  Think  not  of  me,  sir.    Let  him  do  his  worst. 
Oh,  if  the  valour  of  my  heart  could  weigh 
The  fatal  difference  'twixt  his  weight  and  mine, 
A  second  battle  should  he  do  this  day : 
Nay,  though  outmatched  I  be,  let  but  my  mistress 
Give  me  the  word :  instant  I'll  take  him  on 
Here — now — at    catchweight.     Better   bite   the 

carpet 
A  man,  than  fly,  a  coward. 

Lucian  :        Bravely  said : 

I  will  assist  you  with  the  poker. 

And  well  worth  remembering  is  the  naive  autobiography,  de- 
livered at  the  request  of  the  Zulu  king,  of  that  celestially  denom- 
inated "  bruiser  "  concerning  whom  Cashel  once  said :  "  Slave  to 
the  ring  I  rest  until  the  face  of  Paradise  be  changed." 

Cetewayo  *.  Ye  sons  of  the  white  queen : 

Tell  me  your  names  and  deeds  ere  ye  fall  to. 

Paradise  :      Your  royal  highness,  you  beholds  a  bloke 
What  gets  his  living  honest  by  his  fists. 
I  may  not  have  the  polish  of  some  toffs 
As  I  could  mention  on ;  but  up  to  now 
No  man  has  took  my  number  down.    I  scale 
Close  on  twelve  stun ;  my  age  is  twenty-three ; 
And  at  Bill  Richardson's  "  Blue  Anchor  "  pub 
Am  to  be  heard  of  any  day  by  such 
As  likes  the  job.     I  don't  know,  governor, 
As  ennythink  remains  for  me  to  say. 

Those  who  witnessed  the  original  production  of  the  play  by 
the  London  Stage  Society  in  1903,  and  also  the  later  production 
in  1909  at  the  "Afternoon  Theatre"  (His  Majesty's),  unhesi- 
tatingly gave  it  that  "  huge  applause  "  of  which  Shaw  speaks 
so  frankly.  "  The  best  burlesque  of  rhetorical  drama  in  the 
language,"  is  Mr.  Archer's  sweeping  dictum.  Even  the  most 
hardened  of  Philistines  might  find  it  easy  to  agree  with  his  state- 
ment :  "  Fielding's  '  Tom  Thumb  '  and  Carey's  '  Chrononhoton- 
thologos  '  are,  it  seems  to  me,  not  in  the  running." 

76 


THE  NOVELIST 

Not  until  the  appearance  of  An  Unsocial  Socialist,  fifth  of 
the  novels  of  his  nonage,  is  the  Pandora's  box  of  Shavian 
theories  opened.  There  now  begin  to  troop  forth  those  startling 
and  anarchic  views  with  which  the  name  of  Shaw  is  popularly 
associated.  This  modern  "  Ecole  des  Maris  "  heralds  the  reign 
of  the  "  literature  of  effrontery  " ;  Shaw  is  beginning  to  take 
his  stride.  With  all  its  extravagance  and  waywardness,  An  Un- 
social Socialist  has  been  declared  by  at  least  one  critic  of 
authority  to  be  as  brilliant  as  anything  George  Meredith  ever 
wrote.  Let  us  recall  Stevenson's  warning  to  Shaw :  "  Let  him 
beware  of  his  damned  century ;  his  gifts  of  insane  chivalry  and 
animated  narration  are  just  those  that  might  be  slain  and  thrown 
out  like  an  untimely  birth  by  the  Daemon  of  the  Epoch."  Gone 
are  the  chivalry  and  romance — the  winds  of  Socialism  have 
blown  them  all  away.  But  the  book  fairly  reeks  of  the  "  damned 
century,"  with  its  mad  irresponsibility,  its  exasperating  levity, 
its  religious  and  social  revolt.  Written  in  1883,  it  seethes  and 
bubbles  with  the  scum  of  the  Socialist  brew  just  then  beginning 
to  ferment.  Shaw's  original  design,  he  tells  us,  was  to  "  produce 
a  novel  which  should  be  a  gigantic  grapple  with  the  whole  social 
problem.  .  .  .  When  I  had  finished  two  chapters  of  this  enter- 
prise— chapters  of  colossal  length,  but  containing  the  merest 
preliminary  matter — I  broke  down  in  sheer  ignorance  and  in- 
capacity." Eventually  the  two  prodigious  chapters  of  Shaw's 
magnum  opus  were  published  as  a  complete  novel,  in  two 
9  books,"  under  the  title  An  Unsocial  Socialist.  Shaw  begins 
fiercely  to  sermonize  humanity,  to  deride  all  customs  and  insti- 
tutions which  have  not  their  roots  sunk  in  individualism  and 
in  social  justice.  The  Seven  Deadly  Sins  are:  respectability, 
conventional  virtue,  filial  affection,  modesty,  sentiment,  devotion 
to  woman,  romance.  Sidney  Trefusis  is  the  philosopher  of  the 
New  Order,  revolted  by  the  rottenness  of  present  civilization  and 
resolved,  by  any  means,  to  set  in  motion  some  schemes  for  its 
reformation.  Discovering  too  late  that  marriage  to  him,  as  to 
Tanner,  means  "  apostasy,  profanation  of  the  sanctuary  of  his 
soul,  violation  of  his  manhood,  sale  of  his  birthright,  shameful 
surrender,  ignominious  capitulation,  acceptance  of  defeat," 
Trefusis  deliberately  deserts  his  wife,  not  because,  as  with  Falk 

77 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

and  Svanhild  in  Ibsen's  Love's  Comedy,  love  seems  too  exquisite, 
too  ethereal  to  be  put  to  the  illusion-shattering  test  of  marriage, 
but  because  marriage  involves  the  triumph  of  senses  over  sense, 
of  passion  over  reason.  Even  after  he  has  ceased  to  love  Henri- 
etta, her  love  for  him  continues  to  set  in  motion  the  mechanism 
of  passion,  and  he  is  revolted  by  the  fact  that  she  is  satisfied  so 
long  as  "  the  wheels  go  round." 

The  millionaire  son  of  a  captain  of  industry,  Trefusis  has,  by 
a  strange  freak  of  fate,  drunk  deep  of  the  Socialist  draught  of 
the  epoch.  Respecting  his  dead  father  for  his  energy  and 
bravery  among  unscrupulous  competitors  in  the  struggle  for 
existence,  Trefusis  curses  his  memory  for  the  inhuman  means 
employed  in  his  business  dealings  and  the  social  crimes  concealed 
by  the  shimmer  of  his  "  ill-gotten  gold." 

His  most  significant  utterance — an  outburst  before  the 
wealthy  landowner,  Sir  Charles  Brandon — gives  us  a  clear  pic- 
ture of  Shaw's  Socialist  views  at  this  time : 


"  A  man  cannot  be  a  Christian :  I  have  tried  it,  and 
found  it  impossible  both  in  law  and  in  fact.  I  am  a 
capitalist  and  a  landholder.  I  have  railway  shares,  mining 
shares,  building  shares,  bank  shares,  and  stock  of  most 
kinds;  and  a  great  trouble  they  are  to  me.  But  these 
shares  do  not  represent  wealth  actually  in  existence:  they 
are  a  mortgage  on  the  labour  of  unborn  generations  of 
labourers,  who  must  work  to  keep  me  and  mine  in  idleness 
and  luxury.  If  I  sold  them,  would  the  mortgage  be  can- 
celled and  the  unborn  generations  released  from  its  thrall? 
No.  It  would  only  pass  into  the  hands  of  some  other 
capitalist;  and  the  working  classes  would  be  no  better  off 
for  my  self-sacrifice.  Sir  Charles  cannot  obey  the  com- 
mand of  Christ :  I  defy  him  to  do  it.  Let  him  give  his  land 
for  a  public  park :  only  the  richer  classes  will  have  leisure 
to  enjoy  it.  Plant  it  at  the  very  doors  of  the  poor,  so 
that  they  may  at  least  breathe  its  air ;  and  it  will  raise  the 
value  of  the  neighbouring  houses  and  drive  the  poor  away. 
Let  him  endow  a  school  for  the  poor,  like  Eton  or  Christ's 
Hospital;  and  the  rich  will  take  it  for  their  own  children 

78 


THE  NOVELIST 

as  they  do  in  the  two  instances  I  have  named.  Sir  Charles 
does  not  want  to  minister  to  poverty,  but  to  abolish  it. 
No  matter  how  much  you  give  to  the  poor,  everything  but 
a  bare  subsistence  wage  will  be  taken  away  from  them  again 
by  force.  All  talk  of  practising  Christianity,  or  even  bare 
justice,  is  at  present  mere  waste  of  words.  How  can  you 
justly  reward  the  labourer  when  you  cannot  ascertain  the 
value  of  what  he  makes,  owing  to  the  prevalent  custom  of 
stealing  it?  .  .  .  The  principle  on  which  we  farm  out  our 
national  industry  to  private  marauders,  who  recompense 
themselves  by  blackmail,  so  corrupts  and  paralyses  us  that 
we  cannot  be  honest  even  when  we  want  to.  And  the  reason 
we  bear  it  so  calmly  is  that  very  few  of  us  really  want  to." 

A  Marx  in  Shaw's  clothing,  Trefusis  devotes  all  his  energies, 
all  his  wealth,  to  the  task  of  forming  an  international 
association — "  The  International,"  history  gives  it — of  men 
pledged  "to  share  the  world's  work  justly;  to  share  the 
produce  of  the  work  justly;  to  yield  not  a  farthing — charity 
apart — to  any  full-grown  and  able-bodied  idler  or  malingerer, 
and  to  treat  as  vermin  in  the  commonwealth  persons  attempting 
to  get  more  than  their  share  of  wealth  or  give  less  than  their 
share  of  work."  Whole-souledly  committed  to  Socialism  in  its 
iconoclastic  aspects,  Trefusis  defies  convention,  prudery,  deli- 
cacy, good-taste,  and  tact  in  all  his  actions,  convinced  beyond 
reclaim  that  "  vile  or  not,  whatever  is  true  is  to  the  purpose." 
His  philosophy  holds  it  a  short-sighted  policy  to  run  away 
from  a  mistake  or  a  misunderstanding,  instead  of  "  facing  the 
music  "  and  clearing  the  matter  up.  A  licensed  eccentric  like 
his  prototypic  creator  in  real  life,  Trefusis  is  permitted  to  take 
liberties  granted  to  no  one  else ;  and  by  the  "  exercise  of  a  cer- 
tain considerate  tact  (which,  on  the  outside,  perhaps,  seems 
the  opposite  of  tact),"  but  which  in  reality  consists  in  the 
most  ingenious  double-dealing,  he  somehow  or  other  contrives 
to  have  his  way  and  go  scot-free. 

In  the  early  part  of  the  story,  disguised  as  that  "  terrific 
combination  of  nerves,  gall,  and  brains,"  Smilash,  he  dexterously 
philanders  to  his  heart's  content  with  several  young  girls  at 

79 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  boarding-school  where  his  wife  was  educated.  The  veri- 
similitude of  the  portraits,  the  acute  psychology  exhibited  in 
the  portrayal  of  the  feelings,  sentiments,  and  sentimentalities 
of  young  girls  in  the  boarding-school  stage  of  evolution,  testify 
to  Shaw's  remarkable  gifts  as  a  genuine  realist.  That  fore- 
runner of  Julia  Craven,  the  romantic  little  Henrietta  Jansenius, 
is  portrayed  with  insight,  and  not  without  delicacy  and  restraint. 
The  most  unreal,  most  unhuman  scene  in  the  book  is  that  in 
which  Trefusis  apostrophizes  the  body  of  his  dead  wife.  His 
reflections  impress  me  as  both  flippant  and  callous  in  their 
solemn  setting.  It  is  with  a  sense  of  profound  shock  that  we 
hear  him  rudely  flout  the  "  funereal  sanctimoniousness  "  of  the 
family  physician,  mock  at  the  "  harrowing  mummeries  "  of 
religious  and  social  observance,  and  "  damn  the  feelings  "  of  a 
father  and  mother  who  regarded  their  daughter  as  their  chattel 
and  showed  no  true  feeling  for  her  when  she  was  alive.  Trefusis 
is  devoured  with  the  conviction  that  the  first,  if  the  hardest,  of 
all  duties  is  one's  duty  to  one's  self.  His  fine  Italian  hand  is 
betrayed  in  his  later  philanderings  with  the  whilom  loves  of 
Smilash,  now  grown  up  into  disagreeable,  hard,  calculating 
women.  Trefusis's  trickery  of  Sir  Charles  Brandon,  his  unfeel- 
ing deception  of  Gertrude  Lindsay,  his  base  flattery  of  Lady 
Brandon,  his  misleading  promise  to  Erskine,  are  all  exhibitions 
of  his  Jesuitical  policy.  The  exponent  of  Socialism  and  the 
New  Morality,  Trefusis  has  no  scruples  in  employing  unfair 
means  to  secure  whatsoever  he  wants — for  the  cause  of  labour 
and  for  himself.* 

Mr.  W.  L.  Courtney  has  somewhere  called  attention  to  the 
curious  triumph  achieved  by  "  our  only  modern  dramatist,"  as 
he  calls  Bernard  Shaw,  in  view  of  the  fact  that  Shaw  has  never 
hesitated  at  interpreting  women  as  beasts  of  prey.  In  the 
novels  we  find  premonitions  of  Shaw's  later  attitude  toward 

* "  The  hero  is  remarkable  because,  without  losing  his  pre-eminence  as 
hero,  he  not  only  violates  every  canon  of  propriety,  like  Tom  Jones  or  Des 
Grieux,  but  every  canon  of  sentiment  as  well.  In  an  age  when  the  average 
man's  character  is  rotted  at  the  core  by  the  lust  to  be  a  true  gentleman, 
the  moral  value  of  such  an  example  as  Trefusis  is  incalculable." — Mr. 
Bernard  Shaw's  Works  of  Fiction.  Reviewed  by  Himself.  In  the  Novel 
Review,  February,  1892. 

80 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

ensnares  Ferdinand  with  the  words,  "  I  would  not  wish  any 
companion  in  the  world  but  you.  I  am  your  wife  if  you  will 
marry  me."  Juliet  scales  Romeo's  defences  one  by  one,  and 
there  is  Desdemona  with  her  fond  "  hint " ;  Mariana,  the 
strategist;  Helena,  pursuing  the  recreant  Bertram;  Olivia, 
powerless  to  hide  her  passion ;  and  poor,  mad,  melancholy 
Ophelia. 

One  has  only  to  pass  in  review  Shaw's  work,  from  An  Un- 
social Socialist  to  Man  and  Superman,  to  discover  that  per- 
sistent exemplification  of  his  theory  that  "  woman  is  the  pursuer 
and  contriver,  man  the  pursued  and  disposed  of."  Indeed,  in 
his  very  first  play,  we  find  Shaw's  concrete  illustration  of  Don 
|  aan's  statement  that  "  a  woman  seeking  a  husband  is  the  most 
unscrupulous  of  all  the  beasts  of  prey."  All  the  men  in  Shaw's 
plays  seem  to  suffer,  not  from  Prossy's,  but  from  Charteris's 
complaint :  "  At  no  time  have  I  taken  the  initiative  and  pursued 
women  with  my  advances  as  women  have  persecuted  me."  All 
seem  to  labour  under  the  conviction  that  the  woman's  need  of 
a  man  "  does  not  prevail  against  him  until  his  resistance  gathers 
her  energy  to  a  climax,  at  which  she  dares  to  throw  away  her 
customary  exploitations  of  the  conventional  affectionate  and 
dutiful  poses,  and  claim  him  by  natural  right  for  a  purpose  that 
far  transcends  their  mortal  personal  purposes."  The  quintes- 
sence of  the  Shavian  woman  is  Ann  Whitefield,  that  "  most 
gorgeous  of  all  my  female  creatures,"  as  Shaw  calls  her — 
incarnation  of  fecundity  in  Nature,  wilful,  unscrupulous,  im- 
modest, aggressive,  dominant — compelling  Tanner  to  obey  her 
biological  imperative. 

The  appearance  of  Shaw's  theory  in  An  Unsocial  Socialist 
is  responsible  for  this  divagation  of  mine  from  the  theme  of  the 
novels,  this  anticipation  of  the  feminine  psychology  of  the  plays. 
It  is  highly  unreasonable  to  suppose  that  the  exploitation  of 
such  a  theory  on  Shaw's  part  is  a  perverse  and  impish  trick, 
designed  solely  epater  le  bourgeois:  Shaw  has  driven  home  his 
theory  in  countless  deliberate  statements.  As  a  philosophic 
concept,  as  an  interpretation  of  woman  by  an  a-priorist,  little 
fault  can  be  found  with  Shaw  in  the  matter.  No  one  can  question 
Shaw's  right  to  his  opinion.     Even  as  an  effort  to  make  the 

82 


THE  NOVELIST 

natural  attraction  of  the  sexes  the  mainspring  of  the  action  in 
modern  English  drama,  Shaw's  delineation  of  woman  is  far 
from  being  unworthy  of  consideration,  though  it  has  swung 
wide  of  the  mark  in  exaggerative  reaction  against  the  romantic 
sentimentalities  of  the  English  stage.  Shaw's  women  are  full 
of  purpose  and  vitality— the  most  "  advanced  "  of  women  in 
assertion  of  their  rights,  in  resolute  determination  to  override 
all  the  barriers  of  current  respectability  and  "  prurient 
prudery,"  in  perfect  readiness  to  forego  all  considerations  of 
good  taste,  tact,  delicacy,  modesty,  conventional  virtue.  They 
ruthlessly  repudiate  all  those  qualities  which  have  led  man  to 
dub  her  his  "  better  half."£  Shaw's  mistake  consists  in  painting 
woman,  not  as  she  really,  normally  is,  but  as  his  preconceive 
philosophic  system  requires  her  to  be?  He  planks  down  f  01  our 
inspection  less  a  life-like  portrait  of  the  eternal  feminine  than 
a  philosophic  interpretation  of  the  "  superior  sex."  Shaw  is 
a  remarkable  critic  of  life.  Certain  phases  of  human  nature, 
unnoticed  or  unaccented  by  others,  he  has  depicted  with  a 
veracity,  a  cleverness,  a  sparkling  brilliancy  beyond  all  praise. 
But  it  is  one  thing  to  portray  an  individual,  a  totally  different 
thing  to  announce  a  universal  type.  A  soldier  like  Bluntschli, 
a  dare-devil  like  Dudgeon,  a  minister  like  Gardner,  a  hero  like 
Caesar  or  Napoleon,  a  wooer  like  Valentine,  a  Socialist  like 
Trefusis,  a  pugilist  like  Byron — all  these  may  have  lived. 
Shaw  doubtless  can — indeed,  sometimes  does — point  to  their 
counterparts,  if  not  in  literature,  certainly  in  real  life.  But  to 
say  that  all  soldiers  are  like  Bluntschli,  for  example,  is  little 
more  foolish  than  to  say  that  all  women  are  like  Blanche,  like 
Julia,  like  Ann.  The  vital  defect  in  Shaw's  women  is  that  they 
are  too  blatant,  too  obvious,  too  crude.  They  are  lacking  in 
mystery,  in  finer  subtlety,  in  the  subconscious  and  obscurer 
instincts  of  sex,  in  the  arts  of  exquisite  seduction,  of  keenly- 
felt  yet  only  half-divined  allurement.*  The  Life  Force  goes 
about  its  business,  one  would  fain  remind  Mr.  Shaw,  not  openly 
and  with  a  blare  of  trumpets,  but  by  a  thousand  devious  and 
hidden  paths.     Of  course,  there  is  always  the  danger  of  taking 

*  There  are  exceptions  to  this  generalization,  of  course — Lady  Cicely, 
Candida,   Nora,  Jennifer,  Barbara. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Shaw  too  seriously.  Mr.  Archer  wittily,  but,  above  all,  entirely 
truthfully,  dubbed  Ann  a  "  mythological  monster."  As  a 
pendant  to  Everyman  of  the  Dutch  morality,  Ann  may  be  the 
Everywoman  of  the  Shavian  morality.  But  even  Shaw  himself 
admits,  with  wily  fairness,  that  while,  philosophically,  Ann  may 
be  Everywoman  according  to  the  Shavian  dispensation,  yet  in 
practical,  every-day  existence  there  are  countless  women  who 
are  not  Ann. 

If  faith  is  to  be  placed  in  M.  Emile  Faguet's  dictum  that  no 
exceptional  work  of  art  is  ever  written  by  anyone  before  reach- 
ing the  age  of  thirty,  then  Shaw's  novels  are  debarred  by  the 
Statute  of  Limitations.  The  "  ineptitude  "  of  his  novels,  of 
which  Mr.  Shaw  once  spoke  to  me,  is  attributable  to  the  fact 
that  during  this  early  period  he  fed  upon  his  imagination. 
He  had  not  yet  come  into  any  deep  or  really  vital  communion 
with  humanity.  Produced  in  that  impressionable  period  when 
dreaming  seems  preferable  to  living,  the  novels  bristle  with 
faults — immaturities  of  form,  crudenesses  of  expression,  blatant 
didactics.  They  are  often  loose  and  disjointed,  generally  lacking 
in  closely  articulated  structure.  With  all  his  pretended  effort  at 
realism,  Shaw  has  failed  to  impart  to  his  novels  that  one  quality 
without  which  no  modern  work  of  fictive  art  can  take  the  very 
highest  rank — inevitableness.  To  Shaw,  as  to  Zola,  art  is  life 
seen  through  a  temperament.  And  I  often  receive  the  impression 
that  Shaw's  novels  are  less  faithful  records  of  contemporary 
existence  than  documents  revelative  of  Bernard  Shaw.  Shaw  is 
lacking  in  artistic  self-restraint;  like  the  true  propagandist,  he 
seems  almost  unwilling  to  accept  facts  as  they  are,  so  eager  is 
he  to  impose  upon  them  the  stamp  of  his  individual  predilections. 
It  is  the  strangest  of  paradoxes  that  one  who  claims  for  himself 
that  rare  and  priceless  gift — the  abnormally  normal  eyesight 
of  the  realist— should  have  spent  his  life  in  the  endeavour  to  fix. 
the  mask  of  Shaw  upon  the  face  of  life. 

"  The  gods  know  that  Bernard  Shaw  has  many  sins  of  omission 
to  answer  for  when  he  reaches  the  remotest  peak  of  Par- 
nassus," writes  Mr.  Huneker ;  "  but  for  no  one  of  his  many 
gifts  will  he  be  so  sternly  taken  to  task  as  the  wasted  one  of 
novelist.    .    .    .   There  is  more  native  talent  for  sturdy,  clear- 

84 


THE  NOVELIST 

visioned,  character-creating  fiction  in  the  one  prize-fighting 
novel  of  Bernard  Shaw  than  in  the  entire  cobweb  work  of  the 
stylistic  Stevenson  !  .  .  .  Shaw  could  rank  higher  as  a  novelist 
than  as  a  dramatist — always  selecting  for  judgment  the  supreme 
pages  of  his  tales,  pages  wherein  character,  wit,  humour,  pathos, 
fantasy,  and  observation  are  mingled  with  an  overwhelming 
effect."  *  While  there  is  much  of  truth  in  what  Mr.  Huneker 
says,  I  should  hold  quite  the  opposite  opinion  concerning  Shaw's 
relative  merits  as  novelist  and  dramatist.  Not  the  least  sig- 
nificant feature  of  the  novels,  to  my  mind,  is  their  foreshadowing 
of  the  future  dramatist.f  Turning  over  the  pages  of  the 
novels,  from  first  to  last  one  cannot  but  observe  this  recurrent 
trait :  Shaw  always  sees  his  characters  in  a  "  situation."  It  is 
difficult  to  read  one  of  Shaw's  novels  without  unconsciously 
looking  for  the  stage  directions.  Proud  as  he  is  of  his  gifts 
as  a  "  fictionist,"  no  one  is  more  conscious  than  is  Shaw  himself 
of  his  deficiencies  in  this  role.  With  his  customary  succinctness, 
he  once  put  the  case  to  me  as  it  really  is :  "  My  novels  are  very 
green  things,  very  carefully  written." 

*  Bernard  Shaw  and  Woman.     In  Harper's  Bazaar,  June,  1905. 

fit  is  worthy  of  remark  that  the  conclusion  of  Love  Among  the  Artists, 
as  Julius  Bab  has  pointed  out,  accurately  prefigures  the  conclusion  of 
Candida.     The  situation,  the  very  words,  are  almost  identical. 


85 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

"If  ever  there  was  a  society  which  lived  by  its  wits,  and  by  its  wits 
alone,  that  society  was  the  Fabian." — The  Fabian  Society.  Tract  No.  41. 
By  G.  B.  Shaw. 


CHAPTER  IV 

FOR  the  student  of  Shaw's  work  and  career,  there  is  no  escape 
from  the  resemblance,  superficial  or  vital,  between  Shaw 
himself  and  the  numerous  comic  figures  he  has  projected  upon 
the  stage.  Like  that  Byronic  impostor,  Saranoff,  Shaw  has 
gone  through  life  afflicted  with  a  multiplicity  of  personalities. 
In  The  Autocrat  of  the  Breakfast  Table,  Oliver  Wendell  Holmes 
said  that  when  two  people  meet,  there  are  always  six  persons 
present.  But  Shaw  needs  no  party  of  the  second  part  to  sum 
up  the  total  of  personalities:  he  is  eternally  dogged  with  his 
own  ubiquitous  aliases.  Bernard  Shaw,  the  "  fictionist  " ;  Corno 
di  Bassetto,  the  music  critic  of  admirable  fooling  and  pungent 
criticism ;  G.  B.  S.,  the  apostle  of  comic  intransigeance  in  criti- 
cism of  art,  music,  and  drama — and  life ;  "  P-Shaw,"  the  Gil- 
bertian  topsy-turvyist  of  essay  and  drama;  George  Bernard 
Shaw,  Fabian,  economist,  public  speaker,  borough  councillor, 
reformer — all  these  distinct  characters  is  Shaw,  in  Maeter- 
linckian  phrase,  constantly  meeting  upon  the  highway  of  fate. 
It  is  the  province  of  the  biographer  to  detect,  among  this  con- 
fusing cloud  of  aliases,  the  real  man. 

In  1883,  the  career  of  Bernard  Shaw  the  "  fictionist "  came 
to  an  abrupt  and  final  conclusion.  While  this  first  and  intro- 
ductory chapter  in  the  book  of  Shaw's  multiplex  life  was  being 
written,  the  material  for  another  and  infinitely  more  important 
chapter  was  slowly  being  collected  and  arranged.  With  this 
second  chapter  begins  the  life  of  the  real  Shaw. 

As  he  himself  has  told  us,  his  parents  pulled  him  through  the 
years  in  which  he  earned  nothing.  But  he  was  perpetually 
"  grinding  away  "  at  something,  perpetually  feeling  his  way 
towards  confidence  and  efficiency.  The  diversity  of  his  interests 
was  remarkable :  nothing  he  touched  proved  banal  or  unfruitful. 
This  universality  of  interests — the  determination  to  grasp,  the 
effort  to  master,  every  subject  that  came  to  his  hand — is  little 

89 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

less  than  conclusive  as  an  explanation  of  his  many-sidedness. 
"  I  did  not  start  life  with  a  orogramme.  I  simply  accepted 
every  job  offered  to  me,  and  I  did  it  the  best  way  I  could."  In 
this  simple  and  straightforward  statement  is  found  the  key  to 
that  diversity  of  talent,  that  range  of  ability,  which  is  perhaps 
the  most  striking  and  noteworthy  characteristic  of  this  rare 
and  eccentric  genius. 

The  decisive  and  revolutionary  changes  in  Shaw's  truly 
"  chequered  "  career  were  due,  in  almost  all  cases,  to  the  adven- 
titious or  deliberate  influence  of  some  dominant  personality  in 
literature  or  in  life.  The  crucial  conjunctures  in  his  career  are 
closely  associated  with  the  names  of  Shelley,  Ibsen,  Nietzsche, 
Marx,  Wagner,  Mozart  and  Michael  Angelo,  in  art,  music, 
literature  and  philosophy;  with  the  names  and  personalities, 
among  others,  in  life  of  James  Leigh  Joynes,  the  Salt  family, 
Henry  George,  Sidney  Webb,  William  Morris  and  William 
Archer. 

In  Shaw's  acquaintance  with  the  late  James  Lecky  *  is  found 
the  germ  of  that  strenuous  propagandist  activity  which  may 
be  called  the  most  definitive  expression  of  Shaw's  life.  It  was 
in  1879  that  Shaw  first  became  intimate  with  Lecky  and  with 
those  various  subjects,  connected  with  music  and  languages 
on  the  scientific  side,  to  which  Lecky  devoted  so  much  of  his 
energy  and  attention.  Once  interested  in  some  pursuit,  Lecky 
would  become  so  enthused  that  he  would  demand  of  his  friends 
an  interest  therein  commensurate  with  his  own.  This  pestifer- 
ously altruistic  spirit  of  Lecky's  proved  of  great  value  to 
Shaw,  who  set  his  critical  brain  to  work  upon  many  of  the 
problems  which  Lecky  brought  to  his  attention.  Through 
Lecky,  Shaw  acquired  a  working  knowledge  of  Temperament, 
concerning  which  he  once  boasted  that  he  was  probably  the  only 
living  musical  critic  who  knew  what  it  meant ;  and  a  due  appre- 
ciation of  Pitman's  Shorthand — which  he  could  write  at  the  rate 
of  twenty  words  per  minute  and  could  not  read  afterwards  on 
any  terms ! — as  probably  the  worst  system  of  shorthand  ever 

*  Author  of  the  article  on  Temperament  (systems  of  tuning  keyed 
instruments)  in  the  first  edition  of  Grove's  Dictionary  of  Music. 

90 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

invented,  yet  the  best  pushed  on  its  business  side.  Together 
Lecky  and  Shaw  studied  and  djjcussed  Phonetics,  and  while 
Shaw's  knowledge  of  the  subject  was  by  no  means  exhaustive, 
his  interest  in  it  has  since  served  as  a  permanent  protection 
against  such  superficial  catch-penny  stuff  as  the  reformed  spell- 
ings that  are  invented  every  six  months  by  faddists.  Shaw's 
individual  mode  of  punctuation,  his  use  of  spaced  letters  in 
place  of  italics,  his  almost  total  rejection,  on  Biblical  authority, 
which  he  accepted  for  once,  of  quotation  marks,  and  those 
numerous  original  rules  of  punctuation  and  phonetics  which  he 
has  from  time  to  time  formulated  in  magazine  and  daily  press,* 
find  their  raison  d'etre  in  Shaw's  early  association  with  Lecky 
and  subsequent  acquaintance,  through  Lecky's  instrumentality, 
with  the  late  Alexander  Ellis  and  Henry  Sweet,  of  Oxford.  As 
readers  of  the  notes  to  Captain  Brassbound's  Conversion  may 
gather,  Shaw  accepts  Sweet  as  his  authority ;  indeed,  he  highly 
values  his  acquaintance  with  that  "  revolutionary  don,"  as  he 
calls  him,  and  once  said  that,  in  any  other  place  or  country  in 
the  world,  Sweet  would  be  better  known  than  even  Shaw  himself. 
The  knowledge  of  phonetics,  the  interest  in  language-reform 
acquired  through  his  acquaintance  with  men  like  Lecky,  Ellis 
and  Sweet  is  the  explanation,  Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me,  of  the 
fact  that  the  Cockney  dialect,  which  so  befuddles  and  astounds 
the  readers  of  Captain  Brassbound's  Conversion,  is  far  more 
scientific  in  its  analysis  of  London  coster  lingo  than  anything 
that  had  previously  occurred  in  fiction. 

In  the  winter  of  1879,  Lecky  joined  a  debating  club,  called 
The  Zetetical  Society,  numbering  among  its  members  Mr.  Sidney 
Webb,  Mr.  Emil  Garcke,  and  Mr.  J.  G.  Godard.  It  was  a  sort 
of  "  junior  copy  "  of  the  once  well-known  Dialectical  Society, 
which  had  been  founded  to  discuss  Stuart  Mill's  essay  on  Lib- 

*  Among  Shaw's  many  articles  on  these  topics,  may  be  cited  the  follow- 
ing: A  Plea  for  Speech  Nationalization,  in  the  Morning  Leader,  August  16th, 
1901;  Phonetic  Spelling:  a  Reply  to  Some  Criticisms,  ibid.,  August  22d, 
1901 ;  Notes  on  the  Clarendon  Press  Rules  for  Compositors  and  Readers,  in 
The  Author,  April,  1902,  pp.  171-2.  See  also  Mr.  William  Archer's  two 
articles:  Spelling  Reform  v.  Phonetic  Spelling,  in  the  Daily  News,  August 
10th,  1901;  and  Shaw's  Phonetic  World-English,  in  the  Morning  Leader, 
August  24th,  1901. 

91 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 


erty  not  long  after  its  appearance  in  print.  Both  societies  were 
strongly^  Millite ;  in  both  there  was  complete  freedom  of  discus- 
sion, political,  religious  and  sexual.  Women  took  a  prominent 
part  in  the  debates,  which  often  dealt  with  subjects  concerning 
their  rights,  interests  and  welfare.  A  noteworthy  feature  of 
these  debates,  particularly  in  relation  to  Shaw's  future  develop- 
ment as  a  public  speaker,  and  a  critic  as  well,  was  that  each 
speaker,  at  the  conclusion  of  his  speech,  might  be  cross-exam- 
ined on  it  by  any  one  of  the  others  in  a  series  of  questions. 
In  this  society  Malthus,  Ingersoll,  Darwin  and  Herbert  Spencer 
were  held  in  especial  reverence.  The  works  of  Huxley,  Tyndall 
and  George  Eliot  were  on  the  shelves  of  all  the  members.  The 
tone  of  the  society  was  very  "  advanced " — individualistic, 
atheistic,  evolutionary.  Championship  of  the  Married  Woman's 
Property  Act  was  scarcely  silenced  by  the  Act  itself.  The  fact 
that  Mrs.  Besant's  children  were  torn  from  her  like  Shelley's, 
aroused  hot  indignation,  as  did  the  prosecutions  for  "  blas- 
phemy "  then  going  on.  It  is  not  without  significance  that,  even 
at  this  time,  Shaw  was  Socialist  enough  to  defend  the  action  of 
the  State  in  both  cases.  Indeed,  he  has  always  been,  as  he  once 
told  me,  somewhat  of  Morris's  opinion  that  "  There  may  be  some 
doubt  as  to  who  are  the  best  people  to  have  charge  of  children ; 
but  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  the  parents  are  the  worst." 
Strange  jest  of  fate,  Shaw  began  his  career  by  joining  a  society 
whose  members  regarded  Socialism  as  an  exploded  fallacy !  ^ 
How  little  did  anyone  dream  that,  even  then,  underground 
rumblings  of  the  approaching  revolution  might  be  faintly 
heard!  That  recurrent  quindecennial  cycle  of  Socialistic  up- 
heaval of  which  Karl  Kautsky  has  somewhere  spoken,  was  well- 
nigh  completed.  Within  five  years  Socialism  was  to  burst  forth 
with  fresh  impetus,  sweep  the  younger  generation  along  with  it, 
and  plunge  the  Dialectical  and  Zetetical  Societies  into  the 
"  blind  cave  of  eternal  night." 

One  night  in  the  winter  of  1879,  Lecky  dragged  Shaw  to  a 
meeting  of  the  Zetetical  Society,  which  then  met  weekly  in  the 
rooms  of  the  Woman's  Protective  and  Provident  League  in 
Great  Queen  Street,  Long  Acre.  It  will  be  related  elsewhere 
why  Shaw  decided  to  join  the  society  at  once;  suffice  it  to  say 

92 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

here  that  he  became  a  frequent  attendant  upon  the  meetings  of 
the  society,  entering  actively,  if  haltingly,  into  discussion  and 
debate.  The  importance,  in  its  bearing  upon  Shaw's  subsequent 
career  as  a  man  of  affairs  and  a  man  of  letters,  of  an  acquaint- 
ance he  formed  at  this  time  through  the  accident  of  joining  the 
Zetetical  Society,  can  scarcely  be  overestimated.  A  few  weeks 
after  joining  the  society  Shaw's  keenest  interest  was  aroused 
in  a  speaker  who  took  part  in  one  of  the  debates.  This  speaker 
was  a  young  man  of  about  twenty-one,  rather  below  middle 
height,  with  small,  pretty  hands  and  feet,  and  a  profile  that 
suggested,  on  account  of  the  nose  and  imperial,  an  improvement 
on  Napoleon  the  Third.  I  well  remember  the  animated  way 
in  which  Mr.  Shaw  described  to  me  the  man  and  the  occurrence. 
"  He  had  a  fine  forehead,  a  long  head,  eyes  that  were  built  on 
top  of  two  highly  developed  organs  of  speech  (according  to  the 
phrenologists),  and  remarkably  thick,  strong,  dark  hair.  He 
knew  all  about  the  subject  of  debate;  knew  more  than  the  lec- 
turer; knew  more  than  anybody  present;  had  read  everything 
that  had  ever  been  written  on  the  subject;  and  remembered  all 
the  facts  that  bore  on  it.  He  used  notes,  read  them,  ticked 
them  off  one  by  one,  threw  them  away,  and  finished  with  a 
coolness  and  clearness  that,  to  me  in  my  then  trembling  state, 
seemed  miraculous.  This  young  man  was  the  ablest  man  in 
England — Sidney  Webb."  Then  a  trembling  novice,  yet  subse- 
quently to  be  known  as  the  cleverest  man  in  England,  Shaw 
to-day  does  not  hesitate  to  pay  full  honour  to  the  part  Sidney 
Webb  has  played  in  his  career.  The  extent  and  value  of  this 
association  will  reveal  itself  in  due  course.  Shaw  has  said  and 
done  a  thousand  clever  things ;  but,  as  he  once  freely  confessed 
to  me,  "  Quite  the  cleverest  thing  I  ever  did  in  my  life  was  to 
force  my  friendship  on  Webb,  to  extort  his,  and  keep  it." 

After  Shaw  had  been  a  member  of  the  Zetetical  Society  for 
about  a  year,  he  joined  the  Dialectical  Society,  and  was  faithful 
to  it  for  years  after  it  had  dwindled  into  a  little  group  of  five 
or  six  friends  of  Dr.  Drysdale,  the  apostle  of  Malthus.  Shaw 
subsequently  joined  another  debating  society,  the  Bedford,  pre- 
sided over  by  Stopford  Brooke,  who  had  not  then  given  up  his 
pastorate  at  Bedford  Chapel  to  devote  himself  exclusively  to 

93 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

literature.  During  these  years,  as  we  shall  see  more  particularly 
in  the  next  chapter,  Shaw  was  slowly  perfecting  himself  in  the 
art  of  public  speaking.  The  fascination  of  the  platform  grew 
upon  him  daily.  He  not  only  spoke  frequently  himself,  but 
also  attended  public  meetings  of  every  sort,  learning  by  precept, 
experience,  and  example  the  secrets  of  the  art  of  platform 
speaking.  With  dogged  persistence,  he  was  surely,  if  slowly, 
acquiring  what  he  himself  has  called  the  coolness,  the  self- 
confidence  and  the  imperturbability  of  the  statesman. 

During  these  years  he  had  gradually  widened  and  deepened 
his  knowledge  of  the  subjects  which  periodically  came  up  for 
discussion  in  the  various  debating  societies  he  had  joined.  In 
his  boyhood  he  had  read  Mill  on  Liberty,  on  Representative 
Government,  and  on  the  Irish  Land  Question.  And  he  was  fully 
the  equal  of  his  co-debaters  in  knowledge  and  comprehension 
of  the  evolutionary  ideas  and  theories  of  Darwin,  Tyndall, 
Huxley,  Spencer,  George  Eliot,  and  their  school.  But  of  po- 
litical economy  he  knew  absolutely  nothing.  It  was  in  1882  that 
his  attention  was  first  definitely  directed  into  the  economic 
channel. 

England  and  Ireland  were  greatly  stirred  up  at  this  time  by 
the  arrest  of  Henry  George  and  James  Leigh  Joynes  as  "  sus- 
picious strangers "  in  Ireland  (August,  1882).  Joynes,  a 
master  of  Eton,  wishing  to  see  something  of  the  popular  side 
of  the  Irish  movement,  accompanied  George  as  a  correspondent 
of  the  London  Times.  George  was  making  an  investigation  of 
the  situation  in  Ireland  preliminary  to  his  campaign  of  propa- 
ganda in  behalf  of  his  Single  Tax  theories,  enunciated  in  Prog- 
ress and  Poverty.  The  arrest  of  George  and  Joynes,  on  the 
charge  of  being  agents  of  the  Fenians,  was  widely  commented 
on  in  the  newspapers  of  Great  Britain  and  Ireland,  and  resulted 
in  a  Parliamentary  questioning.  Progress  and  Poverty,  .pro- 
nounced by  Alfred  Russel  Wallace  "  undoubtedly  the  most 
remarkable  and  important  work  of  the  nineteenth  century," 
began  to  sell  by  the  thousands ;  it  was  prominently  reviewed  in 
the  London  Times  and  dozens  of  other  papers ;  and  George  felt 
at  last  that  he  was  "  beginning  to  move  the  world."  Further 
encouragement  came  from  the  Land  Nationalization  Society, 

94* 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

which  had  been  founded  in  London  early  in  1882,  with  Alfred 
Russel  Wallace  at  its  head.*  "It  contained  in  its  member- 
ship," says  Mr.  Henry  George,  Jr.,  in  his  biography  of  his 
father,  "  those  who,  like  Wallace,  desired  to  take  possession  of 
the  land  by  purchase  and  then  have  the  State  exact  an  annual 
quit-rent  from  whoever  held  it;  those  who  had  the  Socialistic 
idea  of  having  the  State  take  possession  of  the  land  with  or 
without  compensation  and  then  manage  it ;  and  those  who,  with 
Henry  George,  repudiated  all  idea  of  either  compensation  or  of 
management,  and  would  recognize  common  rights  to  land  simply 
by  having  the  State  appropriate  its  annual  value  by  taxation. 
Such  conflicting  elements  could  not  long  continue  together,  and 
soon  those  holding  the  George  idea  withdrew  and  organized  on 
their  own  distinctive  lines,  giving  the  name  of  the  Land  Reform 
Union  to  their  organization."  While  interest  was  at  fever  heat, 
George  was  invited  by  the  Land  Nationalization  Society  to 
lecture  under  the  auspices  of  a  working  men's  audience  in 
Memorial  Hall.  The  bill,  a  true  copy  of  which  lies  before  me, 
reads  as  follows: 

LAND    NATIONALIZATION. 

Memorial  Hall, 

Farringdon  Street, 

On  Tuesday,  September  5th,  1882. 

Under  auspices  of 

THE  LAND  NATIONALIZATION  SOCIETY. 

Professor 

F.  W.  Newman 

will  preside. 

George's  speech  that  night  was  the  torch  that  "  kindled  the 
fire  in  England  " — a  fire  which  he  afterwards  said  no  human 
power  could  put  out.  It  was  the  masses  that  George  was  trying 
to  educate  and  arouse.  It  was  the  masses  whose  ear  he  caught 
that  night. 

*  Compare  Land  Nationalization:  Its  Necessity  and  Its  Aims,  by  Alfred 
Russel  Wallace.     Swan,  Sonnenschein  and  Co.,  1892. 

95 


/> 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

At  that  time,  Bernard  Shaw  eagerly  haunted  public  meetings 
of  all  kinds.  By  a  strange  chance,  he  wandered  that  night  into 
the  Memorial  Hall  in  Farringdon  Street.  The  speaker  of  the 
evening  was  Henry  George:  his  speech  wrought  a  miracle  in 
Shaw's  whole  life.  It  "kindled  the  fire"  in  his  soul.  "It 
flashed  on  me  then  for  the  first  time,"  Shaw  once  wrote,  "  that 
'  the  conflict  between  Religion  and  Science '  .  .  .  the  over- 
throw of  the  Bible,  the  higher  education  of  women,  Mill  on 
Liberty,  and  all  the  rest  of  the  storm  that  raged  round  Darwin, 
Tyndall,  Huxley,  Spencer,  and  the  rest,  on  which  I  had  brought 
myself  up  intellectually,  was  a  mere  middle-class  business.  Sup- 
pose it  could  have  produced  a  nation  of  Matthew  Arnolds  and 
George  Eliots ! — you  may  well  shudder.  The  importance  of 
the  economic  basis  dawned  on  me."  *  Shaw  now  read  Progress 
and  Poverty;  and  many  of  the  observations  which  the  fifteen- 
year-old  Shaw  had  unconsciously  made  now  took  on  a  sig- 
nificance little  suspected  in  the  early  Dublin  days  of  his  indif- 
ference to  land  agency.f 

Shaw  was  so  profoundly  impressed  by  the  logic  of  Henry 
George's  conclusions  and  suggested  remedial  measures  that, 
shortly  after  reading  Progress  and  Poverty,  he  went  to  a  meeting 
of  the  Social  Democratic  Federation,  and  there  arose  to  protest 
against  their  drawing  a  red  herring  across  the  track  opened 
by  George.  The  only  satisfaction  he  had  was  to  be  told  that 
he  was  a  novice :  "  Read  Marx's  Capital,  young  man,"  was  the 
condescending  retort  of  the  Social  Democrats.    Shaw  promptly 

*  Compare  Chapter  VI.  for  Shaw's  own  account  of  his  conversion  by 
Henry  George. 

■f  No  more  significant  contradiction  between  practice  and  conviction  can 
be  found  in  Shaw's  career  than  lies  inherent  in  the  fact  that  he  began 
life  by  collecting  Irish  rents !  "  These  hands  have  grasped  the  hard-earned 
shillings  of  the  sweated  husbandman,  and  handed  them  over,  not  to  the 
landlord — he,  poor  devil!  had  nothing  to  do  with  it — but  to  the  mort- 
gagee, with  a  suitable  deduction  for  my  principal  who  taught  me  these 
arts."  Not  without  its  spice  of  humour,  also,  is  the  fact  that  Shaw  is 
to-day  an  absentee  landlord,  having  derived  from  his  mother  an  estate 
on  which  her  family  lived  for  generations  by  mortgaging.  No  wonder 
that  Mr.  Shaw  contemplates  with  mingled  feelings  that  process,  which  he 
has  condemned  from  a  thousand  platforms,  being  carried  on  in  his  name 
between  his  agents  and  his  mortgagees! 

96 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

went  and  did  so,  and  then  found,  as  he  once  said,  that  his 
advisers  were  awestruck,  as  they  had  not  read  it  themselves! 
It  was  then  accessible  only  in  the  French  version  at  the  British 
Museum.  William  Archer  has  testified  to  the  diligence  with 
which  Shaw  studied  Marx's  great  work;  he  caught  his  first 
glimpse  of  Shaw  in  the  British  Museum  Library,  where  he 
noticed  a  "  young  man  of  tawny  complexion  and  attire  "  study- 
ing alternately — if  not  simultaneously — Das  Kapital,  and  an 
orchestral  score  of  Tristan  and  Isolde! 

While  Darwin,  Huxley,  Spencer  and  their  school  left  a  distinct 
impress  upon  Shaw's  mind,  it  is  nevertheless  true  that  he  never 
became  a  Darwinian.  To-day  he  is  violently  opposed  to 
Darwinian  materialism;  and  yet  the  Shavian  philosophy,  his- 
torically considered,  is  a  natural  consequence  of  that  bitter 
fight  against  convention,  custom,  authority,  and  orthodoxy, 
inaugurated  by  Darwin  and  his  followers.  But  Shaw's  soci- 
ologic  doctrine  is  a  distillation,  not  of  the  Descent  of  Man  or 
of  the  Data  of  Ethics,  but  of  Das  Kapital.  At  this  crucial 
period  in  Shaw's  career  he  was  exactly  in  the  mood  for  Marx's 
reduction  of  all  the  conflicts  to  the  conflict  of  classes  for 
economic  mastery,  of  all  social  forms  to  the  economic  forms 
of  production  and  exchange.  The  real  secret  of  Marx's  fas- 
cination for  him,  as  he  once  said,  was  "  his  appeal  to  an  unnamed, 
unrecognized  passion — a  new  passion — the  passion  of  hatred  in 
the  more  generous  souls  among  the  respectable  and  educated 
sections  for  the  accursed  middle-class  institutions  that  had 
starved,  thwarted,  misled,  and  corrupted  them  from  their 
cradles."  In  Marx,  Shaw  found  a  kindred  spirit ;  for,  like  Marx, 
his  whole  life  had  bred  in  him  a  defiance  of  middle-class  respecta- 
bility, of  revolt  against  its  benumbing  and  paralyzing  influence. 
As  Shaw  once  said: 

"  Marx's  '  Capital '  is  not  a  treatise  on  Socialism ;  it  is  a 
jeremiad  against  the  bourgeoisie,  supported  by  such  a  mass 
of  evidence  and  such  a  relentless  genius  for  denunciation 
as  had  never  been  brought  to  bear  before.  It  was  supposed 
to  be  written  for  the  working  classes;  but  the  working 
man  respects  the  bourgeoisie  and  wants  to  be  a  bourgeois; 

97 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Marx  never  got  hold  of  him  for  a  moment.  It  was  the 
revolting  sons  of  the  bourgeoisie  itself— Lassalle,  Marx, 
Liebknecht,  Morris,  Hyndman,  Bax,  all,  like  myself, 
bourgeois  crossed  with  squirearchy — that  painted  the  flag 
red.  Bakunin  and  Kropotkin,  of  the  military  and  noble 
caste  (like  Napoleon),  were  our  extreme  left.  The  middle 
and  upper  classes  are  the  revolutionary  element  in  society ; 
the  proletariat  is  the  conservative  element,  as  Disraeli  well 
knew."  * 

Some  such  Marxist  passion,  one  surmises,  subsequently  carried 
weight  with  Shaw  in  influencing  his  choice  of  the  Fabian  Society 
as  the  fit  milieu  for  the  development  and  exploitation  of  his 
energy  and  talent.  For  at  heart  Shaw  is  what  his  plays  so 
abundantly  prove  him — the  revolted  bourgeois. 

Not  only  did  Marx's  jeremiad  against  the  bourgeoisie  awaken 
instant  response  in  Shaw :  it  changed  the  whole  tenor  of  his  life. 
No  single  book — not  the  Bible  of  orthodoxy  and  respectability, 
certainly — has  influenced  Shaw  so  much  as  the  "  bible  of  the 
working  classes."  It  made  him  a  Socialist.  Although  he  has 
since  repudiated  some  of  the  fundamental  economic  theories  of 
Marx,  at  this  time  he  found  in  Das  Kapital  the  concrete  expres- 
sion of  all  those  social  convictions,  grievances  and  wrongs  which 
seethed  in  the  crater  of  his  being.  He  became  that  most  deter- 
mined, most  resistless,  and  often  most  dangerous  of  men  to  deal 
with,  a  man  with  a  mission.  "  From  that  hour,"  I  once  heard 
Mr.  Shaw  say,  "  I  became  a  man  with  some  business  in  the 
world." 

During  the  years  1883  and  1884  Shaw  threw  himself  heart 
and  soul  into  the  exciting  task  of  Socialist  agitation  and  propa- 
gandism.  His  dogged  practice  in  public  speaking  now  began 
to  demonstrate  its  value  with  telling  effect.  While  he  spent  his 
days  in  criticizing  books  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette  and  pictures 
in  the  World,  he  devoted  his  evenings  to  consistent  and  strenuous 
Socialist  propagandism.    He  accepted  invitations  to  address  all 

*  Who  I  Am,  and  What  I  Think.— Part  I.    In  the  Candid  Friend,  May 
11th,  1901. 

98 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

sorts  of  bodies  on  every  day  in  the  week,  Sunday  not  excepted. 
Remember  his  confession  that  he  first  caught  the  ear  of  the 
British  public  on  a  cart  in  Hyde  Park,  to  the  blaring  of  brass 
bands.  During  these  years,  also,  he  was  coming  into  close  touch 
with  the  younger  generation  destined  soon  to  unite  in  a  solid 
phalanx  as  the  Fabian  Society.  Probably  no  living  man  has 
touched  modern  life  at  so  many  points  as  has  Bernard  Shaw. 
In  his  lifetime  he  has  traversed  a  very  lengthy  arc  on  the  circle 
of  modern  culture,  modern  thought  and  modern  philosophy. 
Sovereign  contempt  for  the  laggard  is  one  of  his  prominent 
characteristics ;  he  himself  has  ever  been  an  "  outpost  thinker  " 
on  the  firing-line  of  modern  intellectual  conflict.  Essentially 
significant  because  essentially  modern,  Shaw  owes  no  small  share 
of  his  ability,  his  versatility,  and  his  breadth  of  interests  to  his 
voraciously  acquisitive,  acutely  inquisitive  intellect.  Clever  ac- 
quaintances, brimming  with  ideas,  and  overflowing  with  com- 
bative zeal,  furnished  grist  for  the  ceaselessly  active  mill  of 
Shaw's  intelligence.  No  biography  which  failed  to  trace  the 
shaping  influence  exerted  upon  Shaw's  frantically  complex 
career  by  such  men  as  Hubert  Bland,  Graham  Wallas,  Sidney 
Olivier,  Sidney  Webb  and  William  Morris,  could  lay  just  claim 
to  the  title  of  genuine  natural  history. 

At  the  Land  Reform  Union  Shaw  first  met  Sidney  Olivier, 
then  upper  division  clerk  in  the  Colonial  Office.  Sidney  Webb 
and  Sidney  Olivier,  very  close  friends,  were  the  two  resident 
clerks  there.  When  Webb,  at  Shaw's  persuasion,  joined  the 
Fabians';  Olivier  went  with  him.  There  existed  a  very  close 
relation,  not  only  between  the  various  members  of  the  Fabian 
Society,  but  also  between  many  of  the  advanced  societies  which 
came  to  life  at  this  time.  For  example,  Sidney  Olivier,  who  was 
secretary  of  the  Fabian  Society  for  several  years,  and  Edward 
Carpenter's  brother,  Captain  Alfred  Carpenter,  of  the  Royal 
Navy,  married  sisters;  in  this  way  there  was  a  sort  of  family 
connection  between  the  Socialist  and  Humanitarian  movements. 
Olivier  had  made  friends  at  Oxford  with  Graham  Wallas,  who 
was  probably  influenced  ^through  this  connection  to  become  a 
Fabian.  The  very  intimate  relation  existing  between  Shaw, 
Webb,  Olivier  and  Wallas,  and  the  consequent  marked  influence 

99 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

upon  Shaw's  literary  career  and  performance,  will  be  spoken  of 
elsewhere  at  greater  length.  It  is  noteworthy  that  all  of  these 
men  possessed  literary  talents  of  no  mean  order.  Webb's  books 
have  a  world-wide  reputation.  Olivier's  play,  Mrs.  MaocwelVs 
Marriage,  has  been  performed  by  the  London  Stage  Society; 
and  his  literary  talent  has  displayed  itself,  not  only  in  plays, 
but  also  in  verse,  essay  and  story.*  In  addition  to  his  ability 
as  a  facile  public  speaker,  Graham  Wallas  also  possessed  lit- 
erary talent  of  no  mean  order,  displayed  to  best  advantage  in 
his  book  on  Francis  Place,  with  its  lucid  exposition  of  the  way 
in  which  politics  are  "  wire-pulled "  in  England  by  real 
reformers.f 

Another  man  of  talent,  whose  very  opposition  of  belief  and 
view-point  exerted  a  sort  of  stimulating  influence  upon  Shaw, 
was  William  Clarke,  an  Oxford  M.A.,  who  contributed  the 
chapter  on  The  Industrial  Basis  of  Socialism  to  Fabian  Essays. 
A  Whitmanite,  with  strong  feelings  of  rationalist  type,  allied  in 
spirit  to  Martineau,  the  Unitarians,  and  their  logical  out- 
growth, the  American  Ethical  Society,  Clarke  made  upon  Shaw 
an  ineffaceable  impression.  Shaw  first  met  this  remarkable  man 
at  the  Bedford  Society — a  meeting  which  bore  fruit  in  Clarke's 
joining  the  Fabian  Society.  Clarke  had  lectured  in  America, 
known  Whitman,  and  is  remembered  as  the  author  of  several 
books.  Although  a  successful  lecturer,  he  had  by  this  time 
exhausted  the  interest  of  lecturing,  being  much  older  than  the 
other  Fabians.  A  very  unlucky  man,  he  was,  in  consequence, 
very  poor.  It  has  been  often  said  that  in  the  matter  of  philan- 
thropy Shaw  never  let  his  right  hand  know  what  his  left  was 
doing ;  he  found  a  way  to  relieve  Clarke's  poverty  without  even 
letting  Clarke,  who  quarrelled  with  everything  and  everybody, 
suspect  that  he  was  the  recipient  of  benefaction.  When  the 
Daily  Chronicle  changed  its  policy  and  decided  to  give  a  column 

*  Entering  the  Colonial  Office  twenty-five  years  ago,  he  served  as  Colonial 
Secretary  of  the  Island  of  Jamaica  from  1899  to  1904,  and  on  three  occa- 
sions served  as  Acting  Governor.  From  1905  to  1907  he  was  principal 
clerk  in  the  West  African  Department;  in  April,  1907,  he  was  appointed 
Governor  of  Jamaica,  to  succeed  Sir  Alexander  Swettenham,  and  he  was 
made  a  K.C.M.G.  on  King  Edward's  birthday  in  1907. 

fLife  of  Francis  Place.     Longmans,  1898. 

100 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

in  its  pages  to  Labour,  its  concerns  and  interests,  the  editor,  in 
his  search  for  young  blood,  hit  upon  Shaw,  who  quietly  substi- 
tuted Clarke  in  his  place.  Had  Clarke  ever  discovered  the  truth 
it  might  have  mitigated  the  profound  moral  horror  of  Shaw  he 
always  entertained.  How  Shaw  must  have  chuckled  over  the 
latent  comedy !  The  secret  philanthropist  regarded  as  a  moral 
anarchist,  a  monstrum  horrendum,  by  his  highly  moral  bene- 
ficiary! To  Clarke,  an  altruist  and  moralist  to  the  backbone, 
the  dawning  of  Ibsenism,  of  Nietzscheism,  of  Shavianism,  seemed 
to  be  the  coming  of  chaos.  "  Yet  the  fact  that  I  knew  his 
value  and  insisted  on  it,  and  that  I  could  sympathize  even  with 
his  horror  of  me,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me,  "  kept  our  personal 
relations  remorsefully  cordial.  The  last  time  I  called  on  him 
was  in  the  influenza  period.  He  was  working  madly,  as  usual. 
He  would  have  certainly  refused  to  see  anyone;  but  he  was 
alone  in  the  flat,  and  opened  the  door  for  me.  With  a  savage, 
set  face  that  would  have  made  even  Ibsen's  mouth  look  soft 
by  contrast,  he  said,  through  his  shut  teeth :  *  I  can  give  you 
five  minutes  and  that  is  alV  '  My  dear  Clarke,'  I  replied, 
ambling  idly  into  his  study,  s  I  must  leave  in  half  an  hour  to 
keep  an  appointment;  and  I  have  just  been  thinking  how  I  am 
to  get  away  from  you  so  soon;  for  I  know  you  won't  let  me 
go.'  And  it  turned  out  exactly  as  I  said.  We  began  to  discuss 
the  Parnell  divorce  case  and  the  Irish  crisis,  and  I  could  not 
get  away  from  him  until  the  hour  was  nearly  doubled."  * 

The  part  which  the  Fabian  Society  has  played  in  English  life, 
and  the  share  of  Bernard  Shaw  in  the  task  of  advancing  the 
principles  of  Collectivism  in  the  last  twenty  odd  years,  alone 
offer  ample  material  for  a  book.  So  diverse  in  its  ramifications 
is  the  subject,  that  it  will  be  possible  here  to  trace  the  evolu- 

*  Peculiarly  sad  are  the  subsequent  details  of  Clarke's  life.  After  saving 
about  a  thousand  pounds  by  frenziedly  working  away  for  several  years  as 
a  journalist,  he  lost  it  all  again  in  an  unfortunate  investment  in  the  Lib- 
erator Building  Society — the  enterprise  of  the  notorious  Jabez  Balfour. 
With  an  assured  reputation  as  a  journalist  and  author,  Clarke  might  have 
repaired  his  fortunes.  But  the  first  great  influenza  epidemic  almost  killed 
him;  and  each  year  thereafter  the  epidemic  laid  upon  him  its  increasingly 
tenacious  grip.  At  last  he  sought  to  regain  his  health  by  foreign  travel, 
only  to  die  in  Herzegovina.    Clarke  was  the  first  leading  Fabian  to  fall. 

101 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

tionary  advance  of  Socialism  in  England  only  in  so  far  as  it 
directly  bears  upon  Shaw's  career.*  As  we  know,  Shaw  began 
his  real  education  as  a  pupil  of  Mill,  Comte,  Darwin  and 
Spencer.  Converted  to  Socialism  by  Henry  George  and  his 
Progress  and  Poverty,  Shaw  took  to  insurrectior  r  y  economies 
after  reading  Das  Kapital.  Marx's  book  won  ]  upport  be- 
cause it  so  fiercely  "  convicted  private  propert  p  wholesale 
spoliation,   murder   and   compulsory   prostitutio  >f   plague,, 

pestilence  and  famine;  battle,  murder  and  sudden  .  th."  For 
some  time  before  joining  any  Socialist  society,  ^haw  preached 
Socialism  with  the  utmost  zeal  and  enthusiasm.  The  choice  of 
a  society  lay  between  the  Social  Democratic  Federation,  the 
Socialist  League — both  quite  proletarian  in  their  rank  and  file, 
both  aiming  at  being  large  working-class  organizations — and 
the  Fabian  Society,  which  was  middle-class  through  and 
through.  "  When  I  myself,  on  the  point  of  joining  the  Social 
Democratic  Federation,  changed  my  mind  and  joined  the 
Fabian  instead,"  Shaw  once  wrote,  "  I  was  guided  by  no  dis- 
coverable difference  in  programme  or  principle,  but  solely  by 
an  instinctive  feeling  that  the  Fabian,  and  not  the  Feder- 
ation, would  attract  the  men  of  my  own  bias  and  intellec- 
tual habits,  who  were  then  ripening  for  the  work  that  lay  be- 
fore us." 

The  meetings  held  at  Thomas  Davidson's  rooms  at  Chelsea  in 
1881-1883  furnished  the  initial  impulse  to  the  ethical  Socialism 
in  England  of  the  last  thirty  years.  As  an  immediate  outcome 
of  these  meetings  the  Fabian  Society  sprang  into  being.  In 
September,  1882,  Thomas  Davidson,  recently  returned  from 
Italy,  where  he  had  been  engaged  in  writing  an  interpretation 
of  the  ethical  philosophy  of  Rosmini,  gathered  about  him 
a  group  of  people  "  interested  in  religious  thought,  ethical 
propaganda,  and  social  reform."  Among  their  number  were 
Messrs.  Frank  Podmore,  Edward  R.  Pease,  Havelock  Ellis, 
Percival  Chubb,  Dr.  Burns  Gibson,  H.  H.  Champion,  the  late 
William  Clarke,  Hubert  Bland,  the  Rev.  G.  W.  Allen  and  W.  I. 


*  In  this  connection,  compare  Socialism  in  England,  by  Sidney  Webb. 
Swan,   Sonnenschein   and   Co.,   1890. 

102 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY, 

17,  OSNABUBGH  STREET,  ReQENT*8  PaRK. 


%  Itaifestfl. 


1  For  always  id  thine  eyes,  O  Liberty ! 

Shines  that  high  light  whereby  the  world  is  saved 

And,  though  thou  slay  us,  wa  will  trust  in  thee.** 


LONDON : 
GEO.  STANDRING,  8  &  9,  FTNSBTJRY  STREET,  EC. 


1884 
Facsimile  of  Covee  of  Fabian  Tract,  No.  2. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Jupp,  Miss  Caroline  Hadden,  Miss  Dale  Owen  and  Mrs.  Hinton. 
According  to  M..  Havelock  Ellis,  Davidson  was  convinced  of 
"  the  absolute  necessity  of  founding  practical  life  on  philo- 
sophical conceptions;  of  living  a  simple,  strenuous,  intellectual 
life,  so  far  as  possible  communistically,  and  on  a  basis  of  natural 
religion.  It  was  Rosminianism,  one  may  say,  carried  a  step 
further."  The  many  meetings  at  Mr.  Pease's  rooms  in  Osna- 
burgh  Street  and  elsewhere  finally  bore  fruit  in  a  series  of 
resolutions  proposed  by  Dr.  Burns  Gibson.*  Certain  members 
of  the  circle,  led  by  Mr.  Podmore,  who  desired  to  have  a  society 
on  more  general  lines,  purposed  organizing  a  second  society, 
not  necessarily  exclusive  of  the  "  Fellowship,"  on  broader  and 
more  indeterminate  lines,  leaving  it  open  to  anyone  to  belong 
to  both  societies.  At  a  meeting  on  January  4th,  1884,  these 
proposals  were  substantially  agreed  to.  The  original  name, 
"  The  Fellowship  of  the  New  Life,"  was  retained  by  those  who 
originally  devised  it,  and  a  new  organization  constituted  under 
the  title  of  "  The  Fabian  Society."  f 

The  Fabian  Society,  as  Shaw  has  told  us  in  characteristic 
style,  was  "  warlike  in  its  origin ;  it  came  into  existence  through 
a  schism  in  an  earlier  society  for  the  peaceful  regeneration  of 
the  race  by  the  cultivation  of  perfection  of  individual  char- 
acter. Certain  members  of  that  circle,  modestly  feeling  that 
the  revolution  would  have  to  wait  an  unreasonably  long  time  if 
postponed  until  they  personally  had  attained  perfection,  set 
up  the  banner  of  Socialism  militant,  seceded  from  the  regen- 
erators, and  established  themselves  independently  as  the  Fabian 

*The  society  was  entitled  "The  Fellowship  of  the  New  Life,"  and  its 
first  manifesto  was  entitled  Vita  Nuova.  The  following  was  its  original 
basis,  as  drawn  up  by  Mr.  Maurice  Adams,  and  adopted  on  November 
16th,  1883: 

"We,  recognizing  the  evils  and  wTongs  that  must  beset  men  so  long 
as  our  social  life  is  based  upon  selfishness,  rivalry  and  ignorance,  and 
desiring  above  all  things  to  supplant  it  by  a  life  based  upon  unselfish- 
ness, love  and  wisdom,  unite,  for  the  purpose  of  realizing  the  higher  life 
among  ourselves,  and  of  inducing  and  enabling  others  to  do  the  same. 
"  And  we  now  form  ourselves  into  a  Society,  to  be  called  the  Guild 
of  the  New  Life,  to  carry  out  this  purpose." 
f  Compare    Memorials    of    Thomas    Davidson,    the    Wandering    Scholar, 
collected  and  edited  by  William  Knight.    T.  Fisher  Unwin,  London,  1907. 

104 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

Society."  Shaw  was  not  one  of  the  original  Fabians;  in  fact, 
he  knew  nothing  of  the  society  until  its  first  Uact,  Why  are  the 
Many  Poor?  fell  into  his  hands.  For  some  reason  the  name  of 
the  society  struck  him  as  an  inspiration.  His  choice  fell  upon 
that  society  in  which  he  could  gratify  his  desire  to  work  with 
a  few  educated  and  clever  men  of  the  type  of  Sidney  Webb. 

In  the  earliest  stage  of  the  society  the  Fabians  were  content 
with  nothing  less  than  the  prompt  "  reconstruction  of  society 
in  accordance  with  the  highest  moral  possibilities."  Shaw 
joined  the  society  on  September  5th,  1884,  when  it  was  about 
eight  months  old,  and  in  the  labour-notes  versus  pass-books 
stage  of  evolution.  Shaw  actually  debated  with  a  Fabian  who 
had  elaborated  a  pass-book  system,  the  question  whether  money 
should  be  permitted  under  Socialism,  or  whether  labour-notes 
would  not  be  a  more  suitable  currency!  The  next  two  tracts, 
numbered  2  and  3,  were  from  Shaw's  pen;  and  although  they 
were,  as  he  now  rightly  regards  them,  mere  literary  boutades, 
they  serve  as  an  important  link  in  the  history  of  the  evolution 
of  the  society.*    Tract  No.  4,  What  Socialism  Is,  answering  the 

*  Tract  No.  2,  dated  1884,  which  is  now  very  rare,  has  for  motto  the 
words  of  the  late  John  Hay: 

"For  always  in  thine  eyes,  O  Liberty! 
Shines  that  high  light  whereby  the  world  is  saved; 
And,  though  thou  slay  us,  we  will  trust  in  thee." 

Certain  sections  of  this  manifesto  deserve  quotation  as  illustrative  of  Shaw's 
original  and  characteristic  mode  of  expression: 

"  That,  under  existing  circumstances,  wealth  cannot  be  enjoyed 
without  dishonour,  or  forgone  without  misery. 

"  That  the  most  striking  result  of  our  present  system  of  farming  out 
the  national  land  and  capital  to  private  individuals  has  been  the  divi- 
sion of  society  into  hostile  classes,  with  large  appetites  and  no  dinners 
at  one  extreme,  and  large  dinners  and  no  appetites  at  the  other. 

"  That  the  State  should  compete  with  private  individuals — espe- 
cially with  parents — in  providing  happy  homes  for  children,  so  that 
every  child  may  have  a  refuge  from  the  tyranny  or  neglect  of  natural 
custodians. 

"  That  men  no  longer  need  special  political  privileges  to  protect  them 
against  women;  and  that  the  sexes  should  henceforth  enjoy  equal  po- 
litical rights. 

"That  the  established  Government  has  no  more  right  to  call  itself 
the  State  than  the  smoke  of  London  has  to  call  itself  the  weather. 

105 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

question  both  from  the  Collectivist  and  Anarchist  point  of  view, 
reveals  the  early  Anarchistic  leanings  of  the  society;  the  tract 
really  contained  nothing  that  had  not  already  been  better  stated 
in  the  famous  Communist  Manifesto  of  Marx  and  Engels. 
Shaw  was  especially  impressed  by  the  fact  that,  in  Das  Kapital, 
Marx  had  made  the  most  extensive  use  of  the  documents  con- 
taining the  true  history  of  the  leaps  and  bounds  of  England's 
prosperity,  e.g.,  the  Blue  Books.  This  convinced  him  that  a 
tract  stuffed  with  facts  and  figures,  with  careful  references  to 
official  sources,  was  what  was  wanted.  Incapable  of  making  such 
tracts  unaided,  Shaw  at  once  bethought  him  of  Sidney  Webb. 
That  "  walking  encyclopaedia,"  the  student  who  knew  everything 
and  forgot  nothing,  could  do  it,  Shaw  was  aware,  as  well  as  it 
could  be  done.  So  he  brought  all  his  powers  of  persuasion  to 
bear  on  Sidney  Webb.  Picture  to  yourself  the  scene— two 
earnest,  enthusiastic,  revolutionary  young  men  walking  up  and 
down  Whitehall,  outside  the  Colonial  Office  door,  holding  long 
and  weighty  discussions,  often  prolonged  into  the  wee  small 
hours,  concerning  the  future  of  Socialism — the  keen  wit  and 
agile  logic  of  Shaw  pitted  against  the  sound  judgment  and 
sane  conservatism  of  Webb.  In  this  crucial  juncture  Shaw's 
proved  the  heavier  artillery,  and  Webb  became  a  Fabian.  It 
would  be  difficult  to  lay  one's  finger  upon  any  circumstance  of 
deeper,  more  permanent,  or  more  salutary  effect  upon  Shaw's 
whole  life.  When  Sidney  Webb  joined  the  Fabian  Society  there 
began  a  new  and  profoundly  significant  chapter  in  the  history 
of  Bernard  Shaw.  The  debt  Shaw  owes  to  Webb  is  incalculable, 
and  no  one  is  readier  to  affirm  it  than  Shaw  himself.  On  various 
occasions  I  have  heard  Mr.  Shaw  unstintingly  ascribe  to  Mr. 
Webb  the  greatest  measure  of  credit  for  formulating  and  direct- 

"  That  we  had  rather  face  a  civil  war  than  such  another  century  of 
suffering  as  the  present  one  has  been." 
Tract  No.  3,  addressed  "  To  Provident  Landlords  and  Capitalists,"  urged 
the  proprietary  classes  to  support  "  all  undertakings  having  for  their  object 
the  parcelling  out  of  waste  or  inferior  lands  among  the  labouring  class,  and 
the  attachment  to  the  soil  of  a  numerous  body  of  peasant  proprietors." 
Among  the  probable  results  of  such  a  reform  was  mentioned  (section  5) : 
"The  peasant  proprietor,  having  a  stock  in  the  country,  will,  unlike  the 
landless  labourer  of  to-day,  have  a  common  interest  with  the  landlord  in 
resisting  revolutionary  proposals." 

106 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

ing  the  policy  of  the  Fabian  Society  for  many  years.  "  The 
truth  of  the  matter,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  said  to  me,  "  is  that  Webb 
and  I  are  very  useful  to  each  other.  We  are  in  perfect  contrast, 
each  supplying  the  deficiency  in  the  other."  On  the  other  hand, 
Mr.  Webb  assigns  the  chief  credit  to  Mr.  Shaw;  and  in  a  per- 
sonal letter,  as  well  as  in  conversation,  he  has  assured  me  that 
Mr.  Shaw  has  been  not  simply  a  leading  member,  but  the  leading 
member  of  the  Fabian  Society  practically  from  its  foundation, 
and  that  it  has  always  expressed  his  political  views  and  work. 

1  think  we  may  safely  say  that  Mr.  Shaw  and  Mr.  Webb  have 
been  mutually  complementary — and  complimentary. 

The  immediate  result  of  the  acquisition  of  Webb,  the  new 
recruit  of  the  Fabians,  was  Tract  No.  5,  Facts  for  Socialists,  a 
tangible  proof  of  Webb's  richly-stored  mind  and  well-nourished 
scholarship.     A  comparison  of  this  tract  with  those  numbered 

2  and  3  is  sufficient  evidence  of  the  vast  practical  improvement 
Webb  effected  in  the  publications  of  the  society.  From  this 
time  forth  the  tracts  and  manifestos  of  the  Fabian  Society  took 
on  character  and  importance  through  the  fortunate  conjunction 
of  Webb's  encyclopaedic  mind  and  Shaw's  literary  sense.  The 
next  publication  of  importance  was  Tract  No.  7,  Capital  and 
Land,  a  survey  of  the  distribution  of  property  among  the  classes 
in  England.  Drafted  by  Sidney  Olivier,  this  tract  was  aimed 
in  reality  at  the  Georgites,  who  regarded  capital  as  sacred.  It 
exhibits  growth  of  independent  thought  on  the  part  of  the 
society,  and  courage  in  breaking  away  from  the  fetters  of 
"  mere  Henry  Georgism." 

Eight  years  later,  that  official  organ  of  the  Gladstonians,  the 
Speaker,  defined  Fabianism  as  a  "  mixture  of  dreary,  gassy  doc- 
trinairism  and  crack-brained  farcicality,  set  off  by  a  portentous 
omniscience  and  a  flighty  egotism  not  to  be  matched  outside 
the  walls  of  a  lunatic  asylum."  Such  denunciatory  invective 
reveals  the  activity  and  influence  the  Fabian  Society  must  have 
exerted,  during  those  years,  in  the  direction  most  dreaded  by  the 
older  Whigs.  But  many  were  the  lessons  learned,  the  hard 
knocks  received,  the  follies  rejected,  before  Fabianism  was 
sufficiently  dangerous  and  important  to  be  honoured  with  the 
scathing  denunciation  of  the  Speaker.    The  Fabian  wisdom  grew 

107 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

out  of  the  Fabian  experience;  scientific  economics  out  of  in- 
surrectionary anarchism.  Decidedly  catastrophic  in  their  views 
at  first,  the  Fabians  were  not  unlike  the  young  Socialist  Shaw 
somewhere  describes,  who  plans  the  revolutionary  programme 
as  an  affair  of  twenty-four  lively  hours,  with  Individualism  in 
full  swing  on  Monday  morning,  a  tidal  wave  of  the  insurgent 
proletariat  on  Monday  afternoon,  and  Socialism  in  complete 
working  order  on  Tuesday.  After  Mrs.  Wilson,  subsequently 
one  of  the  Freedom  Group  of  Kropotkinist  Anarchists,  joined 
the  Fabians,  a  sort  of  influenza  of  Anarchism  spread  through 
the  society.*  In  regard  to  political  insurrectionism,  the 
Fabians  exhibited  no  definite  and  explicit  disagreement  with  the 
Social  Democratic  Federation,  avowedly  founded  on  recogni- 
tion of  the  existence  of  a  class  war.  All,  Fabians  and  Social 
Democrats  alike,  said  freely  that  "  as  gunpowder  destroyed  the 
feudal  system,  so  the  capitalist  system  could  not  long  survive 
the  invention  of  dynamite  "  !  Not  that  they  were  dynamitards ; 
but,  as  Shaw  explains :  "  We  thought  that  the  statement  about 
gunpowder  and  feudalism  was  historically  true,  and  that  it 
would  do  the  capitalists  good  to  remind  them  of  it."  The  saner 
spirits  did  not  believe  the  revolution  could  be  accomplished 
merely  by  singing  the  Marseillaise;  but  some  of  the  youthful 
and  insurgent  enthusiasts  "  were  so  convinced  that  Socialism 
had  only  to  be  put  clearly  before  the  working  classes  to  con- 
centrate the  power  of  their  immense  numbers  into  one  irresistible 
organization,  that  the  revolution  was  fixed  for  1889 — the  anni- 
versary of  the  French  Revolution — at  latest."  Shaw  was  cer- 
tainly not  one  of  the  conservative  forces;  he  was  outspokenly 
catastrophic  and  alarmingly  ignorant  of  the  multifarious  deli- 
cate adjustments  consequent  upon  a  widespread  social  cata- 
clysm. "  I  remember  being  asked  satirically  and  publicly  at 
that  time,"  Shaw  afterwards  wrote,  "  how  long  it  would  take 
to  get  Socialism  into  working  order  if  I  had  my  way.  I  replied, 
with  a  spirited  modesty,  that  a  fortnight  would  be  ample  for 
the  purpose.  When  I  add  that  I  was  frequently  complimented 
on  being  one  of  the  more  reasonable  Socialists,  you  will  be  able 

*  Compare  Fabian  Tract  No.  41. 

108 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

to  appreciate  the  fervour  of  our  conviction  and  the  extravagant 
levity  of  our  practical  ideas."  * 

Broadly  stated,  the  Fabians,  in  1885,  proceeded  upon  the 
assumption  that  their  projects  were  immediately  possible  and 
realizable,  an  assumption  theoretically  as  well  as  practically 
unsound.  At  the  Industrial  Remunerative  Conference  they 
denounced  the  capitalists  as  thieves;  while  among  themselves 
they  were  vehemently  debating  the  questions  of  revolution, 
anarchism,  labour-notes  versus  pass-books,  and  other  like  futile 
and  daring  projects.  The  tacit  assumption  under  which  they 
worked,  the  purpose  of  their  campaign  with  its  watchwords: 
"  Educate,  Agitate,  Organize,"  was  "  to  bring  about  a  tre- 
mendous smash-up  of  existing  society,  to  be  succeeded  by  com- 
plete Socialism."  This  romantic,  almost  childlike  faith  in  the 
early  consummation  of  that  far-off  divine  event,  towards  which 
the  whole  of  Socialist  creation  moves,  meant  nothing  more  nor 
less,  as  Shaw  freely  admits,  than  that  they  had  no  true  practical 
understanding  either  of  existing  society  or  Socialism.  But  the 
tone  of  the  society  was  changing,  gradually  and  almost  imper- 
ceptibly, from  that  of  insurrectionary  futility  to  economic  prac- 
ticality. Their  tracts  and  manifestos  voiced,  less  and  less  fre- 
quently, forcible-feeble  expressions  of  altruistic  concern  and 
humanitarian  indignation.  The  practical  bases  of  Socialism, 
the  Fabians  began  to  realize,  were  in  sore  need  of  being  laid. 
And  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  the  frank  levity  and  irreverent 
outspokenness,  which  are  the  distinguishing  traits  of  Shaw,  the 
artist,  were  given  the  fullest  field  for  development  in  the  early 
days  of  Fabian  controversy,  when  no  rein  was  put  on  tongue  or 
imagination.  It  was  at  this  period,  Shaw  has  told  us,  that  the 
Fabians  contracted  the  invaluable  habit  of  freely  laughing  at 
themselves — a  habit  which  has  always  distinguished  them,  always 
saved  them  from  being  dampened  by  the  gushing  enthusiasts  who 
mistake  their  own  emotions  for  public  movements.  As  Shaw 
once  expressed  it : 

*  The  Transition  to  Social  Democracy,  an  address  delivered  on  September 
7th,  1888,  to  the  Economic  Section  of  the  British  Association  at  Bath. 
Printed  in  Fabian  Essays,  but  first  published  in  Our  Corner,  November, 
1888,  edited  by  Annie  Besant. 

109 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

"  From  the  first  such  people  fled  after  one  glance  at  us, 
declaring  that  we  were  not  serious.  Our  preferences  for 
practical  suggestions  and  criticisms,  and  our  impatience  of 
all  general  expressions  of  sympathy  with  working-class 
aspirations,  not  to  mention  our  way  of  chaffing  our  oppo- 
nents in  preference  to  denouncing  them  as  enemies  of  the 
human  race,  repelled  from  us  some  warm-hearted  and  elo- 
quent Socialists,  to  whom  it  seemed  callous  and  cynical  to 
be  even  commonly  self-possessed  in  the  presence  of  the 
sufferings  upon  which  Socialists  make  war.  But  there  was 
far  too  much  equality  and  personal  intimacy  among  the 
Fabians  to  allow  of  any  member  presuming  to  get  up  and 
preach  at  the  rest  in  the  fashion  which  the  working-class 
still  tolerate  submissively  from  their  leaders.  We  knew 
that  a  certain  sort  of  oratory  was  useful  for  '  stoking  up ' 
public  meetings;  but  we  needed  no  stoking  up,  and  when 
any  orator  tried  the  process  on  us,  soon  made  him  under- 
stand that  he  was  wasting  his  time  and  ours.  I,  for  one, 
should  be  very  sorry  to  lower  the  intellectual  standard  of 
the  Fabian  by  making  the  atmosphere  of  its  public  dis- 
cussions the  least  bit  more  congenial  to  stale  declamation 
than  it  is  at  present.  If  our  debates  are  to  be  kept  whole- 
some, they  cannot  be  too  irreverent  or  too  critical.  And 
the  irreverence,  which  has  become  traditional  with  us,  comes 
down  from  those  early  days  when  we  often  talked  such 
nonsense  that  we  could  not  help  laughing  at  ourselves."  * 

No  perceptible  difference  in  the  various  Socialist  societies  in 
England  was  apparent  until  the  election  of  1885.  When  the 
Social  Democratic  Federation  and  that  high  priest  of  Marxism, 
the  eloquent  H.  M.  Hyndman,  first  appeared  in  the  field,  they 
"  loomed  hideously  in  the  guilty  eye  of  property."  Whilst  the 
Fabians  numbered  only  forty,  the  Federation  in  numbers  and 
influence  was  magnified  out  of  all  proportion  by  the  imagination 
of  the  public  and  the  political  parties.  The  Tories  actually 
believed  that  the  Socialists  could  take  enough  votes  from  the 

*  Tract  No.  41,  The  Fabian  Society:  Its  Early  History,  by  G.  Bernard 
Shaw. 

110 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

Liberals  to  make  it  worth  their  while  to  pay  the  expenses  of 
two  Socialist  candidates  in  London.*  The  Social  Democrats 
committed  a  huge  tactical  blunder  in  accepting  Tory  gold  to 
pay  the  expenses  of  these  elections,  to  say  nothing  of  making 
the  damaging  exposure  that,  as  far  as  voting  power  was  con- 
cerned, the  Socialists  might  be  regarded  as  an  absolutely 
negligible  quantity.  A  more  serious  result  of  the  "  Tory  money 
job  "  to  the  Federation  was  the  defection  of  many  of  its  adher- 
ents. The  Socialist  League,  in  the  language  of  American  Na- 
tional Conventions,  viewed  with  indignation  and  repudiated 
with  scorn  the  tactics  of  "  that  disreputable  gang,"  the  S.  D.  F., 
as  it  was  currently  designated;  while  the  Fabians,  more  parlia- 
mentary in  tone,  passed  the  following  resolution :  "  That  the 
conduct  of  the  Council  of  the  Social  Democratic  Federation  in 
accepting  money  from  the  Tory  party  in  payment  of  the  election 
expenses  of  Socialist  candidates  is  calculated  to  disgrace  the 
Socialist  movement  in  England."  Certain  members  of  the  Fed- 
eration, under  the  leadership  of  C.  L.  Fitzgerald  and  J.  Mac- 
donald,  seceded  from  it,  and  in  February,  1886,  formed  a  new 
body  called  "  The  Socialist  Union,"  which  eked  out  a  precarious 
existence  for  barely  two  years.  Far  from  being  reinforced  by 
the  secessionists,  the  Fabians  were,  on  the  contrary,  only  the 
more  inevitably  forced  to  formulate  their  own  principles,  to 
mature  their  own  individual  policy.  From  this  time  forward, 
they  were  classed  by  the  Federation  as  a  hostile  body.  And, 
as  Shaw  says,  "  We  ourselves  knew  that  we  should  have  to  find 
a  way  for  ourselves  without  looking  to  the  other  bodies  for 
a  trustworthy  lead." 

During  the  years  1886  and  1887,  which  mark  the  high  tide 
and  recession  of  Insurrectionism  in  recent  English  Socialist  his- 
tory, the  sane  tacticians,  the  Fabians,  took  little  or  no  hand 
in  the  revolutionary  projects  for  the  relief  of  the  unemployed. 
The  budding  economists  were  not  wedded  to  street-corner  agita- 

*  The  main  facts  of  the  history  of  the  Fabian  Society  as  here  recorded 
are  derived  chiefly  from  Fabian  Tract,  No.  41,  The  Fabian  Society:  Its 
Early  History,  by  Mr.  Shaw,  and  from  conversations  with  Mr.  Shaw. 
Compare,  also,  The  Fabian  Society,  by  William  Clarke;  Preface  to  Fabian 
Essays.     Ball  Publishing  Co.,   Boston,   1908. 

Ill 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

tions  ;  nor  was  their  help  wanted  by  the  men  who  were  organizing 
church  parades  and  the  like.  These  were  years  of  great  distress 
among  the  labouring  classes,  not  only  in  England,  but  in  Hol- 
land, in  Belgium,  and  especially  in  the  United  States.  "  These 
were  the  days  when  Mr.  Champion  told  a  meeting  in  London 
Fields  that  if  the  whole  propertied  class  had  but  one  throat 
he  would  cut  it  without  a  second  thought  if  by  doing  so  he 
could  redress  the  injustices  of  our  social  system;  and  when  Mr. 
Hyndman  was  expelled  from  his  club  for  declaring  on  the 
Thames  Embankment  that  there  would  be  some  attention  paid 
to  cases  of  starvation  if  a  rich  man  were  immolated  on  every 
pauper's  tomb."  After  the  8th  of  February,  1886,  that  mad 
Monday  of  window-breaking,  shop-looting,  and  carriage- 
storming  memory,  Hyndman,  Champion,  Burns,  and  Williams 
were  arrested  and  tried  for  inspiring  the  agitation,  but  were 
acquitted.  "  The  agitation  went  on  more  violently  than  ever 
afterwards ;  and  the  restless  activity  of  Champion,  seconded  by 
Burns'  formidable  oratory,  seized  on  every  public  opportunity, 
from  the  Lord  Mayor's  Show  to  services  for  the  poor  in  West- 
minster Abbey  or  St.  Paul's,  to  parade  the  unemployed  and 
force  their  claims  upon  the  attention  of  the  public."  Champion 
gave  up  in  disgust  when,  impatient  of  doing  nothing  but  march- 
ing hungry  men  about  the  streets  and  making  speeches  to  them, 
he  encountered  only  refusal  of  his  two  proposals  to  the  Federa- 
tion: either  to  empower  him  to  negotiate  some  scheme  of  relief 
with  his  aristocratic  sympathizers,  or  else  go  to  Trafalgar 
Square  and  stay  there  until  something  should  happen.  Matters 
reached  a  crisis  when  the  police,  alarmed  by  the  occasional  pro- 
posals of  incendiary  agitation  to  set  London  on  fire  simultane- 
ously at  the  Bank,  St.  Paul's,  the  House  of  Commons,  the  Stock 
Exchange,  and  the  Tower,  cleared  the  unemployed  out  of  the 
Square.  But  the  agitation  for  right  of  meeting  grew  universal 
among  the  working-classes;  and  finally  Mr.  Stead,  with  the 
whole  working-class  organization  at  his  back,  gave  the  word 
"  To  the  Square  I "  *     To  the  Square  they  all  went,  therefore, 

*  For  an  interesting  account  of  the  early  movements  of  Socialistic  con- 
sciousness in  England,  compare  An  Artist's  Reminiscences,  by  the  artist, 
Walter  Crane;  Chapter  "Art  and  Socialism,"  pp.  249-338.  Methuen  and 
Co.,  1907. 

112 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

Shaw  tells  us,  with  drums  beating  and  banners  waving,  in  their 
tens  of  thousands,  nominally  to  protest  against  the  Irish  policy 
of  the  Government,  but  really  to  maintain  the  right  of  meeting 
in  the  Square.  With  the  new  Chief  Commissioner  of  Police, 
however,  it  was,  as  one  of  Bunyan's  Pilgrims  put  it,  but  a  word 
and  a  blow.  "  That  eventful  13th  of  November,  1887,  has  since 
been  known  as  '  Bloody  Sunday.'  The  heroes  of  it  were  Burns 
and  Cunninghame  Graham,  who  charged,  two  strong,  at  the 
rampart  of  policemen  round  the  Square  and  were  overpowered 
and  arrested.  The  heroine  was  Mrs.  Besant,  who  may  be  said 
without  the  slightest  exaggeration  to  have  all  but  killed  herself 
with  overwork  in  looking  after  the  prisoners,  and  organizing  in 
their  behalf  a  *  Law  and  Liberty  League '  with  Mr.  Stead. 
Meanwhile,  the  police  received  the  blessing  of  Mr.  Gladstone; 
and  Insurrectionism,  after  a  two  years'  innings,  vanished  from 
the  field  and  has  not  since  been  heard  of.  For,  in  the  middle 
of  the  revengeful  growling  over  the  defeat  at  the  Square,  trade 
revived ;  the  unemployed  were  absorbed ;  the  Star  newspaper  ap- 
peared to  let  in  light  and  let  off  steam;  in  short,  the  way  was 
clear  at  last  for  Fabianism.  Do  not  forget,  though,  that  In- 
surrectionism will  reappear  at  the  next  depression  in  trade  as 
surely  as  the  sun  will  rise  to-morrow  morning."  * 

Being  "  disgracefully  backward  "  in  open-air  speaking,  the 
Fabians  had  been  somewhat  overlooked  in  the  excitements  of 
the  unemployed  agitations.  They  had  only  Shaw,  Wallas  and 
Mrs.  Besant  as  against  Burns,  Hyndman,  Andrew  Hall,  Tom 
Mann,  Champion  and  Burrows,  of  the  Federation,  and  numerous 
representative  open-air  speakers  of  the  Socialist  League.  The 
sole  contribution  of  the  Fabians  to  the  agitation  was  a  report, 
printed  in  1886,  recommending  experiments  in  tobacco  culture, 
and  even  hinting  at  compulsory  military  service  as  a  means  of 

*  Shaw's  mother  was  never  able  to  persuade  herself,  so  strong  were  her 
aristocratic  instincts,  that  in  becoming  a  Socialist,  George  had  not  allied 
himself  with  a  band  of  ragamuffins.  One  day,  while  walking  down  Regent 
Street  with  her  son,  she  inquired  who  was  the  handsome  gentleman  on  the 
opposite  side.  On  being  told  that  it  was  Cunninghame  Graham,  the  dis- 
tinguished Socialist,  she  protested :  "  No,  no,  George,  that's  impossible. 
Why,  that  man's  a  gentleman ! " 

113 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

absorbing  some  of  the  unskilled  unemployed.  Drawn  up  by 
Bland,  Hughes,  Podmore,  Stapleton  and  Webb,  this  was  the  first 
Fabian  publication  that  contained  any  solid  information.  In 
June,  1886,  the  temper  of  the  society  over  the  social  question 
having  cooled  to  some  extent,  the  Fabians  "  signalized  their 
repudiation  of  Sectarianism "  by  inviting  the  Radicals,  the 
Secularists,  and  anyone  else  who  would  come,  to  a  great  confer- 
ence, modelled  upon  the  Industrial  Remunerative  Conference,  and 
dealing  with  the  Nationalization  of  Land  and  Capital.  Fifty- 
three  societies  sent  delegates,  and  eighteen  papers  were  read 
during  the  three  afternoons  and  evenings  the  conference  lasted. 
Among  those  who  read  papers  were  two  Members  of  Parliament, 
William  Morris  and  Dr.  Aveling,  of  the  Socialist  League,  Mr. 
Foote  and  Mr.  Robertson,  of  the  National  Secular  Society. 
Wordsworth  Donisthorpe,  Stuart  Headlam,  Dr.  Pankhurst,  Mrs. 
Besant,  Edward  Carpenter  and  Stuart-Glennie  represented  vari- 
ous other  shades  of  Socialist  doctrine  and  belief.  The  main 
result  of  the  conference  was  to  make  the  Fabians  known  to  the 
Radical  clubs  and  to  prove  that  they  were  able  to  manage  a 
conference  in  a  business-like  way. 

By  this  time  the  Fabians  had  definitely  rejected  Anarchism, 
and  were  agreed  as  to  the  advisability  of  setting  to  work  by  the 
ordinary  political  methods.  The  revolutionary  hue  of  the  so- 
ciety, however,  was  not  obliterated  without  many  wordy  duels 
with  that  section  of  the  Socialist  League  which  called  itself 
Anti-Communist,  chiefly  represented  by  Mr.  Joseph  Lane  and 
William  Morris.*  It  finally  became  necessary  to  put  the  matter 
to  a  vote  in  order  to  determine  how  many  adherents  Mrs.  Wilson, 
the  one  avowed  Anarchist  among  the  Fabians,  could  muster. 
There  ensued  a  spirited  debate  over  the  advisability  of  the  So- 
cialists organizing  themselves  as  a  political  party  "  for  the 
purpose  of  transferring  into  the  hands  of  the  whole  working 
community  full  control  over  the  soil  and  the  means  of  produc- 
tion, as  well  as  over  the  production  and  distribution  of  wealth  " 
— a  debate  in  which  Morris,  Mrs.  Wilson,  Davis  and  Tochatti 
were  pitted  against  Burns,  Mrs.  Besant,  Bland,  Shaw,  Donald 

*  Compare  To-Day,  edited  by  Hubert  Bland,  for  the  year  1886. 

114 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

and  Rossiter.  The  resolution  of  Mrs.  Besant  and  Bland,  in 
favour  of  the  organization  of  such  a  party,  was  finally  carried, 
while  Morris's  "  rider,"  discountenancing  as  a  false  step  the 
attempt  of  the  Socialists  to  take  part  in  the  Parliamentary  con- 
test, was  subsequently  rejected.  The  Fabian  Parliamentary 
League,  an  organization  within  the  society  itself,  to  which  any 
Fabian  might  belong,  was  now  formed  in  order  to  avoid  a  break 
with  the  Fabians  who  sympathized  with  Mrs.  Wilson.  The  pre- 
liminary manifesto  of  this  body,  dated  February,  1887,  gives 
the  first  sketch  of  the  Fabian  policy  of  to-day.*  The  League, 
Shaw  tells  us,  first  faded  into  a  Political  Committee  of  the 
society,  and  then  merged  silently  and  painlessly  into  the  general 
body.  The  few  branches  of  the  League  which  Mrs.  Besant 
formed  in  the  provinces  had  but  a  short  life,  quite  to  be  ex- 
pected at  this  time,  for,  outside  Socialistic  circles  in  London, 
the  society  remained  unknown. 

In  connection  with  Shaw's  own  individual  development,  we 
shall  soon  see  how  the  Fabians  received  their  training  for  public 
life  and  became  "  equipped  with  all  the  culture  of  the  age." 
Suffice  it  to  state  here  that  the  Fabians  had  now  thoroughly 
grounded  themselves  in  the  historic,  economic  and  moral  bearings 
of  Socialism.  Their  rejection  of  Anarchism  and  Insurrection- 
ism  was  not  accomplished  without  the  expenditure  of  many 
words,  was  not  unattended  by  ludicrous  results.  The  minutes 
of  the  tumultuous  meeting,  signalized  by  the  Besant-Bland- 
Morris  resolutions  and  attendant  heated  debate,  closed  with  the 
significant  words : 

"  Subsequently  to  the  meeting,  the  secretary  received 
notice  from  the  manager  of  Anderton's  Hotel  that  the 
Society  could  not  be  accommodated  there  for  any  further 
meetings." 

At  any  rate,  even  at  the  cost  of  being  refused  a  meeting- 
place,  the  Fabians  had  finally  demolished  Anarchism  in  the 
abstract  "  by  grinding  it  between  human  nature  and  the  theory 

*  This  manifesto,  in  full,  is  to  be  found  in  Fabian  Tract  No.  41,  pp.  13-14. 

115 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

of  economic  rent."  They  now  began  to  train  the  artillery  of 
their  culture  and  economic  equipment  upon  practical  politics. 
The  Fabian  Conference  of  1886,  attesting  the  repudiation  of 
sectarianism  by  the  Fabians,  had  been  boycotted  by  the  S.  D.  F. 
In  1888,  the  Fabians  adopted  a  policy  which  severed  the  last 
link  between  the  Fabian  Society  and  the  Federation.  The 
Fabians  began  to  join  the  Liberal  and  Radical,  or  even  the  Con- 
servative, Associations,  to  become  members  of  the  nearest  Radical 
Club  and  Co-operative  Store,  and,  whenever  possible,  to  be 
delegated  to  the  Metropolitan  Radical  Federation  and  the  Lib- 
eral and  Radical  Union.  By  making  speeches  and  moving 
resolutions  at  the  meetings  of  these  bodies,  and  using  the  Par- 
liamentary candidate  for  the  constituency  as  a  catspaw,  the 
Fabians  succeeded  in  "  permeating  "  the  party  organizations. 
So  adroitly  did  the  Fabians  manage  their  machinery  of  political 
wire-pulling  that  in  1888  they  gained  the  solid  advantage  of 
a  Progressive  majority  full  of  ideas  "  that  would  never  have 
come  into  their  heads  had  not  the  Fabians  put  them  there,"  on 
the  first  London  County  Council.    In  Shaw's  words,  in  1892: 

"  The  generalship  of  this  movement  was  undertaken 
chiefly  by  Sidney  Webb,  who  played  such  bewildering  con- 
juring tricks  with  the  Liberal  thimbles  and  the  Fabian  peas, 
that  to  this  day  both  the  Liberals  and  the  Sectarian  So- 
cialists stand  aghast  at  him.  It  was  exciting  whilst  it 
lasted,  all  this  '  permeation  of  the  Liberal  party,'  as  it 
was  called ;  and  no  person  with  the  smallest  political  intelli- 
gence is  likely  to  deny  that  it  made  a  foothold  for  us  in 
the  press  and  pushed  forward  Socialism  in  municipal 
politics  to  an  extent  which  can  only  be  appreciated  by 
those  who  remember  how  things  stood  before  our  cam- 
paign. When  we  published  *  Fabian  Essays  '  at  the  end 
of  1889,  having  ventured  with  great  misgiving  on  a  sub- 
scription edition  of  a  thousand,  it  went  off  like  smoke; 
and  our  cheap  edition  brought  up  the  circulation  to  about 
twenty  thousand.  In  the  meantime,  we  had  been  cramming 
the  public  with  information  in  tracts,  on  the  model  of  our 
earliest  financial  success  in  that  department,  namely,  Facts 

lie 


m 

I 

n 


THE    SOCIALIST. 

From  a  photograph   taken   in  July.    1891 


[Facing  p.  lie; 


THE  FABIAN  SOCIETY 

for  Socialists,  the  first  edition  of  which  actually  brought 
us  a  profit — the  only  instance  of  the  kind  then  known.  In 
short,  the  years  1888,  1889,  1890  saw  a  Fabian 
boom.   .    .    . "  * 

In  the  Political  Outlook,  last  of  the  Fabian  Essays,  Hubert 
Bland  wisely  predicted  that  the  moment  the  party  leaders  had 
unmasked  the  Fabian  designs,  they  would  rally  round  all  the 
institutions  the  Fabians  were  attacking.  They  might  either 
put  off  the  Fabians  by  raising  false  issues,  such  as  Leaseholds 
Enfranchisement  and  Disestablishment  of  the  Church,  or,  in 
order  to  defeat  the  Fabian  candidates,  coalesce  with  their  rivals 
for  office — just  as,  for  example,  the  Republicans  and  Democrats 
united  in  the  defeat  of  Henry  George  for  mayor  of  New  York 
City.  In  less  than  two  years,  Bland's  prediction  was  verified. 
When  Sidney  Webb  sought  to  force  to  political  action  a  certain 
"  Liberal  and  Radical "  London  Member  of  Parliament,  who 
had  unwarily  expressed  views  virtually  identical  with  Socialism, 
the  startled  politician  discovered  that  he  was  not  a  Socialist  and 
that  Webb  was.  Although  the  word  to  "  close  up  the  ranks 
of  Capitalism  against  the  insidious  invaders  "  was  promptly 
given,  it  came  too  late,  for  the  permeation  had  gone  on  too 
long.  But  the  result  was  the  "  show-down  "  of  the  Fabian  hand, 
and  the  call  for  a  "  new  deal."  In  fact,  the  Conference  of  the 
London  and  Provincial  Fabian  Societies  at  Essex  Hall  on  Febru- 
ary 6th,  1892,  was  called  together,  not  to  celebrate  the  con- 
tinuance of  the  permeation  boom,  but  to  face  the  fact  that  it 
was  over.  The  time  had  come  for  a  new  departure.  In  his 
address  before  that  conference,  Shaw  unhesitatingly  said :  "  No 
doubt  there  still  remains,  in  London,  as  everywhere  else,  a  vast 
mass  of  political  raw  material,  calling  itself  Liberal,  Radical, 
Tory,  Labour,  and  what  not,  or  even  not  calling  itself  anything 
at  all,  which  is  ready  to  take  the  Fabian  stamp  if  it  is  adroitly 
and  politely  pressed  down  on  it.  There  are  thousands  of  thor- 
oughly Socialized  Radicals  to-day  who  would  have  resisted  So- 

*  Tract  No.  41:  The  Fabian  Society:  Its  Early  History,  by  G.  Bernard 
Shaw. 

117 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

cialism  fiercely  if  it  had  been  forced  on  them  with  taunts, 
threats,  and  demands  that  they  should  recant  all  their  old  pro- 
fessions and  commit  what  they  regard  as  an  act  of  political 
apostasy.  And  there  are  thousands  more,  not  yet  Socialized, 
who  must  be  dealt  with  in  the  same  manner.  But  whilst  our 
propaganda  is  thus  still  chiefly  a  matter  of  permeation,  that 
game  is  played  out  in  our  politics.  .  .  .  We  now  feel  that  we 
have  brought  up  all  the  political  laggards  and  pushed  their 
parties  as  far  as  they  can  be  pushed,  and  that  we  have  therefore 
cleared  the  way  to  the  beginning  of  the  special  political  work 
of  the  Socialist — that  of  forming  a  Collectivist  party  of  those 
who  have  more  to  gain  than  to  lose  by  Collectivism,  solidly 
arrayed  against  those  who  have  more  to  lose  than  to  gain  by 
it."  And  his  final  words  project  no  absurdly  Utopian  dream  of 
striking  the  shackles  from  the  white  slaves  of  Capital.  While 
expressing  undiminished  hope  for  the  possibilities  of  a  distant, 
yet  realizable,  future,  they  reveal  the  sanity  of  the  practical 
man  of  affairs,  of  the  realist  Shaw  has  so  often  magnified  and 
celebrated.  "  You  know  what  we  have  gone  through,  and  what 
you  will  probably  have  to  go  through.  You  know  why  we 
believe  that  the  middle-classes  will  have  their  share  in  bringing 
about  Socialism,  and  why  we  do  not  hold  aloof  from  Radicalism, 
Trade-Unionism,  or  any  of  the  movements  which  are  tradition- 
ally individualistic.  You  know,  too,  that  none  of  you  can  more 
ardently  desire  the  formation  of  a  genuine  Collectivist  political 
party,  distinct  from  Conservative  and  Liberal  alike,  than  we 
do.  But  I  hope  you  also  know  that  there  is  not  the  slightest 
use  in  merely  expressing  your  aspirations  unless  you  can  give 
us  some  voting  power  to  back  them  and  that  your  business  in 
the  provinces  is,  in  one  phrase,  to  create  that  voting  power. 
Whilst  our  backers  at  the  polls  are  counted  by  tens,  we  must 
continue  to  crawl  and  drudge  and  lecture  as  best  we  can.  When 
they  are  counted  by  hundreds  we  can  permeate  and  trim  and 
compromise.  When  they  rise  to  tens  of  thousands  we  shall  take 
the  field  as  an  independent  party.  Give  us  hundreds  of  thou- 
sands, as  you  can  if  you  try  hard  enough,  and  we  will  ride  the 
whirlwind  and  direct  the  storm." 


118 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 


"  I  leave  the  delicacies  of  retirement  to  those  who  are  gentlemen  first 
and  literary  workmen  afterwards.  The  cart  and  trumpet  for  me." — On 
Diabolonian  Ethics.     In  Three  Plays  for  Puritans,  p.  xxii. 


CHAPTER  V 

"  T  F  the  art  of  living  were  only  the  art  of  dialectic !  If  this 
J.  world  were  a  world  of  pure  intellect,  Mr.  Shaw  would  be 
a  dramatist."  Mr.  Walkley  damns  the  dramatist  to  deify  the 
dialectician.  Many  would  deny  Shaw  the  possession  of  a  heart ; 
few  can  deny  him  the  possession  of  a  remarkable  brain  and  a 
phenomenal  faculty  of  telling  speech.  The  platform  orator  of 
to-day — easy,  nonchalant,  resourceful,  instantaneous  in  repartee, 
unmatched  in  hardiesse,  sublime  in  audacity — Shaw  was  once  a 
trembling,  shrinking  novice.  The  veteran  of  a  thousand  verbal 
combats  was  once  afraid  to  raise  his  voice;  the  blagueur,  the 
"  quacksalver  "  of  a  thousand  mystifications,  was  once  afraid 
to  open  his  mouth !  After  all,  the  "  brilliant  "  and  "  extraor- 
dinary "  Shaw  is  only  a  self-made  man.  The  sheer  force  of  his 
will,  exerted  with  tremendous  energy  ever  since  he  came  to 
man's  estate,  is  the  great  motor  which  has  carried  him  in  his 
lifetime  "  from  the  seventeenth  to  the  twenty-first  century."  A 
scientific  natural  history  of  Bernard  Shaw's  extraordinary 
career  should  make  clear  to  all  young  aspirants  that  the  extraor- 
dinariness  of  that  career  lies  in  its  ordinariness.  "  Like  a  green- 
grocer and  unlike  a  minor  poet,"  as  Mr.  Shaw  once  put  it  to 
me,  "  I  have  lived  instead  of  dreaming  and  feeding  myself  with 
artistic  confectionery.  With  a  little  more  courage  and  a  little 
more  energy  I  could  have  done  much  more;  and  I  lacked  these 
because  in  my  boyhood  I  lived  on  my  imagination  instead  of  on 
my  work." 

Bernard  Shaw  has  unravelled  life's  tangles  with  infinite  pa- 
tience. No  cutting  of  Gordian  knots  for  him.  To  ignore  his 
training,  his  dogged  persistence,  his  undaunted  "  push,  pluck 
and  perseverance,"  is  unduly  to  magnify  his  natural  capacity. 
Sacrifice  the  phenomenon  and  you  find  the  personality ;  off  with 
the  marvel  and  on  with  the  man.  In  a  letter  to  me,  written  in 
1904,  Mr.  Shaw  gave  due,  almost  undue,  credit  to  the  influence 
of  training: 

121] 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

"  It  has  enabled  me  to  produce  an  impression  of  being 
an  extraordinarily  clever,  original  and  brilliant  writer,  de- 
ficient only  in  feeling,  whereas  the  truth  is  that,  though  I 
am  in  a  way  a  man  of  genius — otherwise  I  suppose  I  could 
not  have  sought  out  and  enjoyed  my  experiences  and  been 
simply  bored  by  holidays,  luxury  and  money — yet  I  am 
not  in  the  least  naturally  '  brilliant,'  and  not  at  all  ready 
or  clever.  If  literary  men  generally  were  put  through  the 
mill  I  went  through  and  kept  out  of  their  stuffy  little 
coteries,  where  works  of  art  breed  in  and  in  until  the 
intellectual  and  spiritual  product  becomes  hopelessly  degen- 
erate, I  should  have  a  thousand  rivals  more  brilliant  than 
myself.  There  is  nothing  more  mischievous  than  the  notion 
that  my  works  are  the  mere  play  of  a  delightfully  clever 
and  whimsical  hero  of  the  salons:  they  are  the  result  of 
perfectly  straightforward  drudgery,  beginning  in  the  in- 
eptest  novel-writing  juvenility,  and  persevered  in  every  day 
for  twenty-five  years." 

The  combination  of  supreme  audacity  with  a  sort  of  expansive 
and  ludicrous  self-consciousness  has  enabled  Shaw  to  secure 
many  of  his  most  comic  effects.  And  yet  he  once  said  with 
unreasonable  modesty  that  anybody  could  get  his  skill  for  the 
same  price,  and  that  a  good  many  people  could  probably  get 
it  cheaper.  He  wrested  his  self-consciousness  to  his  own  ends, 
transforming  it  from  a  serious  defect  into  a  virtue  of  genuine 
comic  force.  The  apocryphal  incident  of  Demosthenes  and  the 
pebbles  finds  its  analogue  in  the  case  of  Shaw.  Only  the  most 
persistent  and  long-continued  efforts  enabled  him  to  acquire  that 
sublime  hardihood  in  platform  speaking  which  he  deprecatingly 
denominates  "  ordinary  self-possession."  When  Lecky,  in  1879, 
first  dragged  him  to  a  meeting  of  the  Zetetical  Society,  Shaw 
knew  absolutely  nothing  about  public  meetings  or  public  order. 
I  remember  a  talk  with  Mr.  Shaw  one  day  at  Ayot  St.  Law- 
rence over  the  morning  meal.  "  I  had  an  air  of  impudence, 
of  course,"  said  Mr.  Shaw,  "  but  was  really  an  arrant  coward, 
nervous  and  self-conscious  to  a  heartrending  degree.  Yet  I 
could  not  hold  my  tongue.     I  started  up  and  said  something 

122 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

in  the  debate,  and  then  felt  that  I  had  made  such  a  fool  of 
myself  (mere  vanity;  for  I  had  probably  done  nothing  in  the 
least  noteworthy)  that  I  vowed  I  would  join  the  society,  go  every 
week,  speak  every  week,  and  become  a  speaker  or  perish  in  the 
attempt.  And  I  carried  out  this  resolution.  I  suffered  agonies 
that  no  one  suspected.  During  the  speech  of  the  debater  I 
resolved  to  follow,  my  heart  used  to  beat  as  painfully  as  a 
recruit's  going  under  fire  for  the  first  time.  I  could  not  use 
notes ;  when  I  looked  at  the  paper  in  my  hand  I  could  not  collect 
myself  enough  to  decipher  a  word.  And  of  the  four  or  five 
wretched  points  that  were  my  pretext  for  this  ghastly  practice 
of  mine,  I  invariably  forgot  three — the  best  three."  Yet  in 
some  remarkable  way  Shaw  managed  to  keep  his  nervousness 
a  secret  from  everyone  except  himself,  for  at  his  third  meeting 
he  was  asked  to  take  the  chair.  He  bore  out  the  impression 
he  had  created  of  being  rather  uppish  and  self-possessed  by 
accepting  as  off-handedly  as  if  he  were  the  Speaker  of  the  House 
of  Commons.  He  afterwards  confessed  to  me  that  the  secretary 
probably  got  the  first  inkling  of  his  hidden  terror  by  seeing  that 
his  hand  shook  so  that  he  could  hardly  sign  the  minutes  of  the 
previous  meeting.  There  must  have  been  something  provocative, 
however,  even  in  Shaw's  nervous  bravado.  His  speeches,  one 
imagines,  must  have  been  little  less  dreaded  by  the  society  than 
they  were  by  Shaw  himself,  yet  it  is  significant  that  they  were 
seldom  ignored.  The  speaker  of  the  evening,  in  replying  at  the 
end,  usually  paid  Shaw  the  questionable  compliment  of  address- 
ing himself  with  some  vigour  to  Shaw's  remarks,  and  seldom  in 
an  appreciative  vein.  Conversant  with  the  political  theories  of 
Mill  and  the  evolutionary  theories  of  Darwin  and  his  school, 
Shaw  was,  on  the  other  hand,  "  horribly  ignorant "  of  the 
society's  subjects.  He  knew  nothing  of  political  economy; 
moreover,  he  was  a  foreigner  and  a  recluse.  Everything  struck 
his  mind  at  an  angle  that  produced  reflections  quite  as  puzzling 
as  at  present,  but  not  so  dazzling.  His  one  success,  it  appears, 
was  achieved  when  the  society  paid  to  Art,  of  which  it  was 
stupendously  ignorant,  the  tribute  of  setting  aside  an  evening 
for  a  paper  on  it  by  a  lady  in  the  "  aesthetic  "  dress  of  the 
period.    "  I  wiped  the  floor  with  that  meeting,"  Shaw  once  told 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

me,  "  and  several  members  confessed  to  me  afterwards  that  it 
was  this  performance  that  first  made  them  reconsider  their  first 
impression  of  me  as  a  discordant  idiot." 

Shaw  persevered  doggedly,  taking  the  floor  at  every  oppor- 
tunity. Like  the  humiliated,  defiant  Disraeli,  in  his  virgin 
speech  in  the  House  of  Commons,  Shaw  resolved  that  some  day 
his  mocking  colleagues  should  hear,  aye,  and  heed  him.  He 
haunted  public  meetings,  so  he  says,  "  like  an  officer  afflicted  with 
cowardice,  who  takes  every  opportunity  of  going  under  fire  to 
get  over  it  and  learn  his  business."  After  his  conversion  to 
Socialism,  he  grew  increasingly  zealous  as  a  public  speaker.  He 
was  so  full  of  Socialism  that  he  made  the  natural  mistake  of 
dragging  it  in  by  the  ears  at  every  opportunity.  On  one  occa- 
sion he  so  annoyed  an  audience  at  South  Place  that,  for  the 
only  time  in  his  life,  he  was  met  with  a  demonstration  of  im- 
patience. "  I  took  the  hint  so  rapidly  and  apprehensively  that 
no  great  harm  was  done,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  said  to  me ;  "  but  I 
still  remember  it  as  an  unpleasant  and  mortifying  discovery 
that  there  is  a  limit  even  to  the  patience  of  that  poor,  helpless, 
long-suffering  animal,  the  public,  with  political  speakers."  Such 
an  incident  had  never  occurred  before ;  and  although  Shaw  has 
spent  his  life  in  deriding  the  public,  he  has  taken  care  that  such 
a  mortifying  experience  never  occur  again.  Shaw  now  began 
to  devote  most  of  his  time  to  Socialist  propagandism.  An 
eventful  experience  came  to  him  in  1883,  when  he  accepted  an 
invitation  to  address  a  workmen's  club  at  Woolwich.  At  first 
he  thought  of  writing  a  lecture  and  even  of  committing  it  to 
memory;  for  it  seemed  hardly  possible  to  speak  for  an  hour, 
without  text,  when  he  had  hitherto  spoken  only  for  ten  minutes 
in  a  debate.  He  now  realized  that  if  he  were  to  speak  often 
on  Socialism — as  he  fully  meant  to  do — writing  and  learning 
by  rote  would  be  impossible  for  mere  want  of  time.  He  made 
a  few  notes,  being  by  this  time  cool  enough  to  be  able  to  use 
them.  He  found  his  feet  without  losing  his  head:  the  sense  of 
social  injustice  loosened  his  tongue.  The  lecture,  called 
"  Thieves,"  was  a  demonstration  of  the  thesis  that  the  pro- 
prietor of  an  unearned  income  inflicted  on  the  community  ex- 
actly the  same  injury  as  a  burglar.     Fortified  by  sceva  indig- 

124 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

natio,  Shaw  spoke  for  an  hour  easily.  From  that  time  forth  he 
considered  the  battle  won. 

In  March,  1886,  Shaw  participated  in  a  series  of  public  de- 
bates held  at  South  Place  Institute,  South  Place,  Finsbury, 
E.C.  Here  for  the  first  time  he  tried  his  hand,  in  a  fairly  large 
hall,  on  an  audience  counted  by  hundreds  instead  of  scores. 
"  Socialism  and  Individualism  "  was  the  general  title  of  this 
series  of  Sunday  afternoon  lectures.*  This  was  a  daring  under- 
taking for  Shaw,  who  had  neither  the  experience  nor  the  savoir 
faire  of  his  colleagues.  It  was  perhaps  for  this  reason  that  he 
did  not  particularly  distinguish  himself,  his  opponent  giving 
him  as  good  as  he  sent.  Mrs.  Besant,  a  born  orator,  was  inter- 
esting and  eloquent,  while  Webb  quite  eclipsed  Shaw,  positively 
annihilating  his  adversary.  One  who  knew  him  well  at  this 
initial  stage,  however,  said  that  if  Bernard  Shaw  knew  nothing, 
he  invented  as  he  went  along.  The  lightness  of  touch,  the  nim- 
bleness  of  intellect,  lacked  complete  development.  At  this  time 
the  clever  young  Irishman  had  neither  memory  enough  for 
effective  facts,  nor  presence  of  mind  enough  to  be  an  easy 
winner  in  debate. 

No  one  has  yet  measured  the  all-important  influence  Sidney 
Webb  has  exerted  upon  Shaw's  career,  dating  from  that  mem- 
orable evening  at  the  Zetetical  Society  when  Shaw  gazed  in 
open-mouthed  wonder  at  that  miracle  of  effectiveness  and  model 
of  self-possession.  Shaw's  admiration  has  waxed,  not  waned, 
with  the  passage  of  time.  To-day  he  regards  Webb  as  one  of 
the  most  extraordinary  and  capable  men  alive.     The  critic  who, 

*  On  March  6th,  Mrs.  Annie  Besant  (Fabian  Society)  spoke  versus  Mr. 
Corrie  Grant,  subject:  "That  the  existence  of  classes  who  live  upon  un- 
earned incomes  is  detrimental  to  the  welfare  of  the  community,  and  ought 
to  be  put  an  end  to  by  legislation."  On  March  13th,  Mr.  G.  B.  Shaw 
(Fabian  Society)  versus  Rev.  F.  W.  Ford,  subject:  "That  the  welfare  of 
the  community  necessitates  the  transfer  of  the  land  and  existing  capital 
of  the  country  from  private  owners  to  the  State."  On  March  20th,  Mr. 
Sidney  Webb  (Fabian  Society)  versus  Dr.  T.  B.  Napier,  subject:  "That 
the  main  principles  of  Socialism  are  founded  on,  and  in  accordance  with, 
modern  economic  science."  On  March  27th,  Mr.  H.  H.  Champion  versus 
Mr.  Wordsworth  Donisthorpe  (Liberty  and  Property  Defence  League), 
subject:  "  That  State  interference  with,  and  control  of,  industry  is  in- 
evitable, and  will  be  advantageous  to  the  community." 

125 


SOUTH    PLACE    INSTITUTE, 

Sooth  PtACE.  Fiksbury,  E.C: 

[NEAR  MOOtlGATE  STtlEEl  AND  BPOAI'  STlll-.EV  STATIONS) 

Sunday  Afternoon  Lectures, 

Socialism  and  Individualism. 

A    SERIES    OF    DEBATES 

Will  take  place  during  MARCH  as  follows 
March  6th. 
MRS.  ANNIE  BESANT      versus      MR  CORRIE  GRANT. 

(Fabian  Society.) 

Subject :  *  That  the  existence  of  classes  who  live  upon  unearned  incomes 
is  detrimental  to  the  welfare  of  the  Community,  and  ought  to  be 
put  au  end  to  by  Legislation." 

March  13th. 

MR.  G.  BERNARD  SHAW  vmw      REV  F  W  FORD. 

(Fabian  Society.) 

Subject  "  That  the  welfare  of  the  Community  necessitates  the  transfer 
of  the  land  and  existing  capital  of  the  Country  from  private 
owners  to  the  state. 


March  20th. 
MR.  SIDNEY  WEBB  venu*  DR.  T.  8.  NAPIER. 

[Fabian  Society.) 
Subject :   "  That  the  main'  principles  of  Socialism  are  founded  on,  and  in 
accordance  with  Modern  Economic  Science." 


M&rch  27th. 
MR.  H.  H.  CHAMPION 

verm* 
MR. WORDSWORTH  DONISTHORPE, 

(Liberty  end  Property  Defence  League.) 
Subject :  "  That  State  interference  with,  and  control  of  industry  is 
inevitable,  and  will  be  advantageous  to  the  Community." 

The  Chair  will  be  taken  each  afternoon  at  4  o'clock. 

!.*>■         ■!■ HI 

The  audience  are  requested  to  refraiu  from  any  interference  in  the 

Debates,  which  will  be  confined  exclusively  to  the  speakers 

announced  above. 

MR.     WALTER    HASTINGS 

Will  give  an 

OBGAH      RECITAL 

Each  Afterjjoon  from  8-30  to  4  o'clock. 


ALU  SEATS  FREE.  NO  COLLECTION. 

Doors  open  at  3--20. 

CONRAD  TH1ES,  Hon.  Sec.  to  Institute  Committee. 
Program  of  Sunday  Afternoon  Lectures 
South  Place  Institute,  South  Place,  Finsbury,  E.  C. 
March,  1886. 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

in  Disraelian  phrase,  regards  Shaw  as  "  one  vast  appropriation 
clause,"  will  find  some  support  for  this  belief  in  Shaw's  state- 
ment that  the  difference  between  Shaw  with  Webb's  brains  and 
knowledge  at  his  disposal,  and  Shaw  by  himself,  is  enormous. 
"  Nobody  has  as  yet  gauged  it,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  said  in  a  letter 
to  me,  "  because  as  I  am  an  incorrigible  mountebank,  and  Webb 
is  one  of  the  simplest  of  geniuses,  I  have  always  been  in  the 
centre  of  the  stage  whilst  Webb  has  been  prompting  me,  invisible, 
from  the  side."  Shaw's  faculties  of  acquisitiveness  and  appro- 
priation are  enormously  developed,  a  fact  once  comically  accen- 
tuated by  him  in  the  frank  avowal  he  once  made  to  me :  "  I  am 
an  expert  picker  of  other  men's  brains,  and  I  have  been  ex- 
ceptionally fortunate  in  my  friends." 

It  was  not  without  severe  training  and  incessant  work  that 
Shaw  and  his  fellow  Fabians  acquired  the  equipment  in  the  his- 
toric and  economic  weapons  of  Social  Democracy,  comparable 
to  that  which  Ferdinand  Lassalle  in  his  day  so  defiantly  flaunted 
in  the  faces  of  his  adversaries.  While  Stead,  Hyndman  and 
Burns  were  organizing  the  unemployed  agitation  in  the  streets, 
the  Fabians  were  diligently  training  themselves  for  public  life. 
Frank  Podmore,  a  Post  Office  civil  servant,  and  Edward  Rey- 
nolds Pease,  present  secretary  of  the  Fabian  Society,  two  orig- 
inal Fabians,  were  great  friends,  and  the  earliest  Fabian  meet- 
ings were  held  alternately  at  Pease's  rooms  in  Osnaburgh  Street, 
and  at  Podmore's,  in  Dean's  Yard,  Westminster.*     Certain  of 

*  At  this  time,  it  is  interesting  to  recall,  Pease  and  Podmore  were  deeply 
interested  in  the  Psychical  Research  Society,  which  had  its  office  in  the 
Dean's  Yard  rooms.  In  this  way  the  Fabians,  Shaw  in  particular,  were 
brought  in  close  touch  with  the  exploits  of  this  society  at  its  most  exciting 
period,  when  Madame  Blavatsky  was  exposed  by  the  American,  R.  Hodgson. 
Compare,  for  example,  Shaw's  two  book-reviews  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette: 
A  Scotland  Yard  for  Spectres,  being  a  notice  of  the  Proceedings  of  the 
Society  for  Psychical  Research  (January  23d,  1886),  and  A  Life  of 
Madame  Blavatsky  (January  6th,  1887).  On  one  eventful  evening  Shaw 
attended  a  Fabian  meeting,  then  went  on  to  hear  the  end  of  a  Psychical 
Research  stance,  and  ended  by  sleeping  in  a  haunted  house  with  a  com- 
mittee of  ghost-hunters.  Picture,  if  you  can,  Shaw's  deep  mortification, 
his  intense  disgust  over  having  a  nightmare  on  that  night  of  all  nights, 
and  waking  up  in  a  corner  of  the  room  struggling  desperately  with  the 
ghost. 

127 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  Fabians  sadly  felt  the  need  of  solid  information  and  train- 
ing, in  addition  to  that  afforded  by  the  meetings  of  the  society. 
Thrown  upon  their  individual  resources,  those  most  scholarly 
inclined  of  the  Fabians,  a  veritable  handful,  founded  the  Hamp- 
stead  Historic  Club.  First  established  as  a  sort  of  mutual 
improvement  society  for  those  ambitious  Fabians  wishing  to 
read,  mark,  learn  and  inwardly  digest  Marx  and  Proudhon, 
this  club  was  afterwards  turned  into  a  systematic  history  class, 
in  which  each  student  took  his  turn  at  being  professor.  Thus 
they  taught  each  other  what  they  themselves  wished  to  learn, 
acquiring  the  most  thorough  and  minute  knowledge  of  the  sub- 
ject under  discussion.  In  these  days  Shaw,  Webb,  Olivier  and 
Wallas  were  the  bravoes  of  advanced  economics — the  Three 
Musketeers  and  D'Artagnan.  As  Olivier  and  Wallas  were  men 
of  very  exceptional  character  and  attainments,  Shaw  was  en- 
abled, as  he  once  expressed  it  in  my  presence,  to  work  with 
a  four-man-power  equal  to  a  four-hundred-ordinary-man- 
power, which  made  his  feuilletons  and  other  literary  perform- 
ances "  quite  unlike  anything  that  the  ordinary  hermit-crab 
could  produce."  Mr.  Shaw  thus  explained  very  quaintly  the 
secret  of  his  success  at  this  period.  "  In  fact  the  brilliant, 
extraordinary  Shaw  was  brilliant  and  extraordinary;  but  then 
I  had  an  incomparable  threshing  machine  for  my  ideas — a 
machine  which  contributed  heaps  of  ideas  to  my  little  store; 
and  when  I  seemed  most  original  and  fantastic,  I  was  often 
simply  an  amanuensis  with  a  rather  exceptional  literary  knack, 
cultivated  by  dogged  practice."  And  of  his  three  warm  friends 
he  freely  confessed :  "  They  knocked  a  tremendous  lot  of  non- 
sense, ignorance  and  vulgarity  out  of  me,  for  we  were  on  quite 
ruthless  terms  with  one  another." 

Another  associate,  one  of  the  Fabian  essayists  and  now  a 
journalist,  Hubert  Bland,  was — and  is  still — of  great  value  to 
Shaw  and  his  colleagues,  by  reason  of  his  strong  individuality 
and  hard  common  sense,  and  on  account  of  the  fact  that  his 
views  ran  counter  to  Webb's  on  many  lines.  Bland  lived  at 
Blackheath,  on  the  south  side  of  the  river,  at  this  time;  and 
his  wife,  the  very  clever  woman  and  distinguished  author,  "  E. 
Nesbit,"  was  a  remarkable  figure  at  the  Fabian  meetings  during 

128 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

the  first  seven  or  eight  years  of  its  existence.  During  the  era 
of  the  Hampstead  Historic  Club,  Bland  had  a  circle  of  his 
own  at  Blackheath;  and  although  Hampstead,  lying  north  of 
London,  was  quite  out  of  Bland's  district,  Shaw  and  his  friends 
used  sometimes  to  descend  on  his  evening  parties.  Bland  had 
an  utter  contempt  for  the  Bohemianism  of  Shaw  and  his  com- 
panions, evincing  it  by  wearing  invariably  an  irreproachable 
frock-coat,  tall  hat,  and  a  single  eyeglass  which  infuriated  every- 
body. Mrs.  Bland  graciously  humoured  the  reckless  Bohemian- 
ism of  the  insouciant  Fabians,  and  on  one  memorable  occasion 
stopped  them  at  her  door,  went  for  needle  and  thread,  and — 
perhaps  with  a  faint  hope  of  preserving  the  haut  ton  of  her 
social  evening — then  and  there  sewed  up  the  sleeve  of  Sidney 
Olivier's  brown  velveteen  jacket.  A  dernier  ressort,  for  the 
sleeve  was  all  but  torn  out!  There  was  some  compensation 
in  the  fact  that,  even  then,  Olivier  fully  looked  the  dignified 
part  he  was  one  day  to  fill.  But  it  is  not  easy  to  doubt  that 
the  arrant  Bohemianism  of  the  luckless  Fabians,  their  reckless 
disregard  of  evening  dress,  must  have  been  very  trying  to  the 
decorum  of  Blackheath. 

Of  fierce  Norman  exterior  and  great  physical  strength,  Bland 
dominated  others  by  force  of  sheer  size.  Pugnacious,  powerful, 
a  skilled  pugilist,  and  with  a  voice  which  Mr.  Shaw  once  accu- 
rately described  as  being  exactly  "  like  the  scream  of  an  eagle," 
he  made  such  a  formidable  antagonist  that  no  one  dared  be 
uncivil  to  him.  Just  as  William  Clarke  always  combated  and 
consequently  stimulated  Shaw  by  a  diametrically  opposite  point 
of  view,  so  Bland  exerted  a  like  influence  upon  Sidney  Webb, 
and  indirectly  upon  Shaw.  Strongly  Conservative  and  Im- 
perialist by  temperament,  Bland  stood  in  sharp  contrast  to  the 
Millite,  Benthamite  recruits  of  the  Fabian  Society.  There 
were  many  other  clever  fellows,  many  other  good  friends 
in  Shaw's  circle  at  this  time;  but  through  circumstances 
of  time,  place  and  marriage — the  changes  and  chances  of 
this  mortal  life — they  could  not  be  in  such  close  touch  with 
Shaw,  Webb,  Olivier  and  Wallas  as  were  these  four  with  one 
another. 

It  is  not,  of  course,  to  be  supposed  that  Shaw  was  merely  the 

129 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

recipient,  like  Moliere  always  taking  his  material  where  he 
found  it.  In  his  own  peculiar  and,  at  times,  vastly  irritating 
way,  he  made  his  personality  strongly  felt,  exerting  great  influ- 
ence by  sheer  force  of  a  sort  of  perverse  common  sense.  To 
employ  Poe's  apt  descriptive,  he  was  the  Imp  of  the  Perverse 
made  flesh.  In  the  circle  of  the  Fabians  there  was  room  for 
considerable  strife  of  temperaments,  and  in  the  other  Socialist 
societies,  quarrels  and  splits  and  schisms  were  rather  frequent. 
Unquestionably  Shaw's  quintessential  service  to  the  Fabians  lay 
in  his  pioneering  ideas  and  his  knack  of  drafting  things  in 
literary  form  and  arranging  his  colleagues'  ideas  for  them  with 
Irish  lucidity.  A  somewhat  less  conspicuous,  yet  little  less  im- 
portant, service  consisted  in  clearing  the  atmosphere,  in  easing 
off  the  personal  friction  which  not  infrequently  produced  smoke 
and  at  times  threatened  to  kindle  a  conflagration.  This  personal 
friction  Shaw  managed  to  eliminate  in  a  most  characteristic 
way:  by  a  sort  of  tact  which  superficially  looked  like  the  most 
outrageous  want  of  it.  Whenever  there  was  a  grievance,  instead 
of  trying  to  patch  matters  up,  Shaw  would  deliberately  betray 
everybody's  confidence  after  the  fashion  of  Sidney  Trefusis,  by 
stating  it  before  the  whole  set  in  the  most  monstrously  exag- 
gerated terms.  What  would  have  been  the  result  among  ac- 
quaintances less  closely  linked  by  ties  of  personal  friendship  it 
is  easy  to  imagine.  The  usual  result,  however,  of  Shaw's  hazard- 
ous and  tactless  outspokenness  was  that  everybody  repudiated 
his  monstrous  exaggerations,  and  whatever  of  grievance  there 
was  in  the  matter  was  fully  explained.  Of  course,  Shaw  was 
first  denounced  as  a  reckless  mischief-maker,  and  afterwards  for- 
given as  a  privileged  lunatic. 

Once  every  fortnight,  for  a  number  of  years,  Shaw  attended 
the  meetings  of  the  Hampstead  Historic  Club;  and  in  the 
alternate  weeks  he  spent  a  night  at  a  private  circle  of  econo- 
mists which  subsequently  developed  into  The  Royal  Economic 
Society.  Fabian,  and  especially  Shavian,  Socialism  is  strictly 
economic  in  character,  a  circumstance  due  in  no  small  measure 
to  the  fact  that  in  this  circle  of  economists  the  social  question 
was  left  out  and  the  work  kept  on  abstract  economic  lines.  In 
speaking  of  this  period,  Shaw  afterwards  confessed: 

130 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

"  I  made  all  my  acquaintances  think  me  madder  than 
usual  by  the  pertinacity  with  which  I  attended  debating 
societies  and  haunted  all  sorts  of  hole-and-corner  debates 
and  public  meetings  and  made  speeches  at  them.  I  was 
President  of  the  Local  Government  Board  at  an  amateur 
Parliament  where  a  Fabian  ministry  had  to  put  its  pro- 
posals into  black-and-white  in  the  shape  of  Parliamentary 
Bills.  Every  Sunday  I  lectured  on  some  subject  I  wanted 
to  teach  to  myself;  and  it  was  not  until  I  had  come  to  the 
point  of  being  able  to  deliver  separate  lectures,  without 
notes,  on  Rent,  Interest,  Profits,  Wages,  Toryism,  Liberal- 
ism, Socialism,  Communism,  Anarchism,  Trade-Unionism, 
Co-operation,  Democracy,  the  Division  of  Society  into 
Classes,  and  the  Suitability  of  Human  Nature  to  Systems 
of  Trust  Distribution,  that  I  was  able  to  handle  Social 
Democracy  as  it  must  be  handled  before  it  can  be  preached 
in  such  a  way  as  to  present  it  to  every  sort  of  man  from 
his  own  particular  point  of  view.  In  old  lecture  lists  of 
the  Society  you  will  find  my  name  down  for  twelve  different 
lectures  or  so.  Nowadays  (1892),  I  have  only  one,  for 
which  the  secretary  is  good  enough  to  invent  four  or  five 
different  names."  * 

The  only  opponents  who  held  their  own  against  the  Fabians 
in  debate,  men  like  Levy  and  Foote,  had  learned  in  the  harsh 
school  of  experience ;  like  the  Fabians,  they  had  found  pleasure 
and  profit  in  speaking,  in  debating,  and  in  picking  up  bits  of 
social  information  in  the  most  out-of-the-way  places.  It  was 
this  keen  Socialistic  acquisitiveness  of  the  Fabians,  their  readi- 
ness to  eschew  the  conventional  amusements  for  the  pleasure 
to  be  derived  from  speaking  several  nights  each  week,  which 
prepared  them  for  the  strenuous  platform  campaigns  of  the 
future.  And  such  fun  it  was  to  the  Fabian  swashbucklers ! 
After  being  "  driven  in  disgrace  "  out  of  Anderton's  Hotel,  and 
subsequently  out  of  a  chapel  near  Wardour  Street  in  which 
they  had  sought  sanctuary,  the  Fabians  went  to  Willis's  Rooms, 

*  Tract  No.  41,  The  Fabian  Society:  Its  Early  History,  by  G.  Bernard 
Shaw. 

131 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  most  aristocratic  and  also,  as  it  turned  out,  the  cheapest 
place  of  meeting  in  London.  "  Our  favourite  sport,"  says  Shaw, 
"  was  inviting  politicians  and  economists  to  lecture  to  us,  and 
then  falling  on  them  with  all  our  erudition  and  debating  skill, 
and  making  them  wish  they  had  never  been  born."  On  one 
occasion  the  Fabians  confuted  Co-operation  in  the  person  of 
Mr.  Benjamin  Jones  on  a  point  on  which,  as  Shaw  afterwards 
confessed,  they  subsequently  found  reason  to  believe  that  they 
were  entirely  in  the  wrong  and  he  entirely  in  the  right.  The 
16th  of  March,  1888,  commemorates  the  most  signal  victory 
of  the  Fabians  in  this  species  of  guerrilla  warfare.  On  that 
night  of  glorious  memory  a  well-known  member  of  Parliament, 
now  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War,  lured  into  the  Fabian 
ambuscade,  was  butchered  to  make  a  Fabian  holiday.  The 
following  ludicrous  account  of  the  incident  was  written  by  the 
Individualist,  Mr.  G.  Standring,  in  The  Radical,  March  17th, 
1888.  Picture  to  yourself  the  scene — a  spacious  and  lofty 
apartment,  brilliantly  lighted  by  scores  of  wax  candles  in  hand- 
some candelabra,  and  about  eighty  ladies  and  gentlemen,  seated 
around  on  comfortable  chairs,  lying  in  wait  ^or  the  unsuspecting 
M.P.  The  company  is  composed  almost  exclusively  of  members 
of  the  Fabian  Society — "  A  Socialist  body  whose  motto  is : 
Don't  be  in  a  hurry ;  but  when  you  do  go  it,  go  it  thick !  " 

"  Such  were  the  surroundings  when,  on  March  16th,  Mr. 
R.  B.  Haldane,  M.P.,  was  brought  forth  to  meet  his  fate. 
The  hon.  gentleman,  who  is  a  lawyer  and  Member  for 
Haddingtonshire,  was  announced  to  speak  on  '  Radical 
Remedies  for  Economic  Evils,'  but  one  could  easily  see 
that  this  was  a  mere  ruse  of  war.  The  Fabian  fighters 
were  drawn  up  in  battle  array  before  the  Chairman's  table, 
ready  for  the  fatal  onslaught. 

"  Truth  to  tell,  Mr.  Haldane  did  not  appear  at  all 
alarmed  at  the  prospect  of  his  impending  butchery.  Erect 
and  manly,  he  stood  at  the  table,  and  in  calm,  well-chosen 
language  showed  cause  for  his  belief  that  Radical  princi- 
ples and  Radical  methods  are  sufficient  to  cure  the  evils 
of  society.     He  then  critically  examined  a  Fabian  pam- 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

phlet,  '  The  True  Radical  Programme,'  and  put  in  de- 
murrers thereto.  The  hon.  and  learned  gentleman  spoke 
for  an  hour,  and  as  I  sat  on  my  cushioned  chair,  encom- 
passed round  about  by  Socialists,  breathing  an  atmosphere 
impregnated  with  Socialism,  I  listened,  and  softly  mur- 
mured :  '  Verily,  an  angel  hath  come  down  from  heaven ! ' 

"  As  the  last  words  of  Mr.  Haldane  died  away,  the  short, 
sharp  tones  of  the  Chairman's  voice  told  that  the  carnage 
was  about  to  commence.  After  some  desultory  questioning, 
Mr.  Sidney  Webb  sprang  to  his  feet,  eager,  excited  and 
anxious  to  shake  the  life  out  of  Mr.  Haldane  before  anyone 
else  could  get  at  him.  He  spoke  so  rapidly  as  to  become 
at  times  almost  incoherent.  Mr.  Webb  seemed  to  be 
charged  with  matter  enough  for  a  fortnight,  and  he  was 
naturally  desirous  to  fire  as  much  of  it  as  possible  into 
the  body  of  the  enemy.  At  length  the  warning  bell  of 
the  Chairman  was  heard,  and  the  attack  was  continued  by 
Mrs.  Annie  Besant,  who,  standing  with  her  back  to  the 
foe,  occasionally  faced  round  to  emphasize  a  point.  Then 
up  rose  George  Bernard  Shaw,  and  as  he  spoke,  his  gestures 
suggested  to  me  the  idea  that  he  had  got  Mr.  Haldane 
impaled  upon  a  needle,  and  was  picking  him  to  pieces 
limb  by  limb,  as  wicked  boys  disintegrate  flies.  Mr.  Shaw 
went  over  the  Radical  lines  as  laid  down  by  his  opponent, 
and  this  was  the  burden  of  his  song:  That  is  no  good, 
this  is  no  good,  the  other  is  no  good — while  you  leave  nine 
hundred  thousand  millions,  in  the  shape  of  Rent  and  In- 
terest, in  the  hands  of  an  idle  class.  Let  us  nationalize 
the  nine  hundred  thousand  millions,  and  all  these  (Radical) 
things  shall  be  added  unto  you.  Mr.  Shaw  fired  a  Parthian 
shot  as  he  sat  down.  Mr.  Haldane  had  spoken  of  educa- 
tion, elementary  and  technical,  as  a  means  of  advancing 
national  welfare.  Shaw  met  this  with  open  scorn,  and 
declared  that  the  most  useful  and  necessary  kind  of  educa- 
tion was  the  education  of  the  Liberal  party !  With  that  he 
subsided  in  a  rose-water  bath  of  Fabian  laughter. 

"  The  massacre  was  completed  by  two  other  members  of 
the  Society,  and  then  the  Chairman  called  upon  Mr.  Hal- 

133 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

dane  to  reply.  Hideous  mockery !  the  Chairman  knew  that 
Haldane  was  dead!  He  had  seen  him  torn,  tossed  and 
trampled  underfoot.  Perhaps  he  expected  the  ghost  of  the 
M.P.  to  rise  and  conclude  the  debate  with  frightful  gibber- 
ings  of  fleshless  jaws  and  gestures  of  bony  hands.  Indeed, 
I  heard  a  rustling  of  papers,  as  if  one  gathered  his  notes 
for  a  speech ;  but  I  felt  unable  to  face  the  grisly  horror  of 
a  phantom  replying  to  its  assassins,  so  I  fled." 

The  three  great  influences,  formative  and  determinative, 
whose  importance  in  their  bearing  upon  Shaw's  career  can 
scarcely  be  overestimated,  are:  first,  minute  and  exhaustive  re- 
searches into  the  economic  bases  of  society ;  second,  his  persever- 
ing efforts  as  a  public  man  toward  the  practical  reformation  of 
patent  social  evils ;  and,  third,  his  strenuous  activity  persisted 
/  in  for  many  years,  as  a  public  speaker  and  Socialist  propa- 
N  gandist.  His  plays  are  so  permeated  with  the  spirit  of  eco- 
nomic and  social  research  that  they  may  be  called,  with  little 
exaggeration,  clinical  lectures  upon  the  social  anatomy  of  our 
time.  Shaw,  the  public  man,  the  man  of  affairs,  never  the  literary 
recluse  of  the  ivory  tower,  stands  revealed  alike  in  criticism 
and  drama.  There  is  more  truth  than  jest  in  Shaw's  statement, 
generally  greeted  with  derisive  scepticism,  that  his  plays  differ 
from  those  of  other  dramatists  because  he  has  been  a  vestryman 
and  borough  councillor.  And  there  is  scarcely  a  play  of 
Shaw's  which  does  not  bear  the  hall-mark  of  the  facile  debater. 
His  weekly  feuilletons,  his  literary  criticisms,  provocative,  argu- 
mentative, controversial,  smack  of  the  arena  and  the  public 
platform. 

This  close  touch  with  actual  life,  this  vital  association  with 
public  effort  and  social  reform,  have  imparted  to  Shaw's  literary 
productions  a  rare,  an  unique  flavour.  He  has  gone  down 
unflinchingly  into  the  pitiless  and  dusty  arena  to  joust  against 
all  comers.  Shaw  has  never  lived  the  literary  life,  never  be- 
longed to  a  literary  club.  He  has  never  lived  "  Vauguste  vie 
quotidienne  d^un  Hamlet^  who,  as  Maeterlinck  asserts,  has  time 
to  live  because  he  does  not  act.  Shaw  has  found  life  in  action, 
action  in  life.    Although  he  brought  all  his  powers  unsparingly 

134 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

to  the  criticism  of  the  fine  arts,  he  never  frequented  their  social 
surroundings.  When  he  was  not  actually  writing  or  attending 
performances,  his  time  was  fully  taken  up  by  public  work,  in 
which  he  was  fortunate  enough  to  be  associated  with  a  few  men 
of  exceptional  ability  and  character.  From  1883  to  1888,  he 
was  criticizing  books  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette  and  pictures  in 
the  World.  This  left  him  his  evenings  free ;  consequently  he  did 
a  tremendous  amount  of  public  speaking  and  debating — speak- 
ing in  the  open  air,  in  the  streets,  in  the  parks,  at  demonstra- 
tions— anywhere  and  everywhere.  While  he  never  belonged  to 
a  literary  club,  so  called,  he  was  a  member  of  several  literary 
societies  in  London.  His  intimate  acquaintance  with  Shake- 
speare was  improved  by  his  quiet  literary  off-nights  at  the  New 
Shakespeare  Society  under  F.  J.  Furnival.  Elected  a  member 
of  the  Browning  Society  by  mistake,  Shaw  stood  by  the  mistake 
willingly  enough,  and  spent  many  breezy  and  delightful  evenings 
at  its  meetings.  "  The  papers  thought  that  the  Browning 
Society  was  an  assemblage  of  long-haired  aesthetes,"  Shaw  once 
remarked  to  me ;  "  in  truth,  it  was  a  conventicle  where  pious 
ladies  disputed  about  religion  with  Furnival,  and  Gonner  and 
I  egged  them  on."  *  When  Furnival  founded  the  Shelley  So- 
ciety, Shaw,  of  course,  joined  that,  and  became  an  extremely 
enthusiastic  and  energetic  member.  It  was  at  the  Shelley 
Society's  first  large  meeting  that  Shaw  startled  London  by 
announcing  himself  as,  "  like  Shelley,  a  Socialist,  an  atheist, 
and  a  vegetarian."  f  Shaw  was  afterwards  active  in  forwarding 
the  fine  performance  of  The  Cenci,  given  by  the  Shelley  Society, 
before  it  succumbed  to  its  heavy  printer's  bills.  Such  were 
Shaw's  recreations;  but  his  main  business  was  Socialism.  It 
was  first  come  first  served  with  Shaw.     Whenever  he  received 

*  The  Gonner  here  referred  to  is  E.  C.  K.  Gonner,  M.A.,  now  Brunner 
Professor  of  Economic  Science  at  the  University  College,  Liverpool. 

f  While  Shaw  has  stated  publicly  numbers  of  times  that  he  was  an 
atheist,  an  explanation  here  is  necessary.  Shaw  has  always  had  a  strong 
sense  of  spiritual  things;  his  declarations  of  atheism  should  always  be 
taken  with  the  context.  "If  this  be  religion,"  he  has  virtually  said  in 
reply  to  someone's  exposition  of  religion,  "then  I  am  an  atheist."  In  the 
case  of  Shelley,  it  is  perfectly  plain  that  Shaw  meant  that  he  was  all  these 
things— a  Socialist,  an  atheist  and  a  vegetarian— in  the  Shelleyan  sense. 

135 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

an  invitation  for  a  lecture,  like  his  own  character  Morell,  he 
gave  the  applicant  the  first  date  he  had  vacant,  whether  it  was 
for  a  street  corner,  a  chapel,  or  a  drawing-room.  He  spoke  to 
audiences  of  every  description,  from  University  dons  to  London 
washerwomen.  From  1883  to  1895,  with  virtually  no  exception, 
he  delivered  a  harangue,  with  debate,  questions,  and  so  on, 
every  Sunday — sometimes  twice  or  even  thrice — and  on  a  good 
many  weekdays.  This  teeming  and  tumultuous  life  was  passed 
on  many  platforms,  from  the  British  Association  to  the  triangle 
at  the  corner  of  Salmon's  Lane  in  Limehouse. 

In  1888,  when  he  became  a  critic  of  music,  Shaw  was  re- 
stricted solely  to  lectures  on  Sundays,  as  he  could  not  foresee 
whether  he  should  have  the  opera  or  a  concert  to  attend  on 
week-nights.  It  is  remarkable  how  much  he  managed  to  do, 
even  with  this  handicap,  especially  as  he  had  to  speak  usually 
on  short  notice.*  At  last,  as  was  inevitable  with  a  man  burning 
the  candle  at  both  ends,  the  strain  began  to  tell;  Shaw  found 
it  impossible  to  deal  with  all  the  applications  he  received.  For 
an  advanced  and  persistently  progressive  thinker  like  Shaw,  the 
unavoidable  repetition  of  the  old  figures  and  the  old  demonstra- 
tions in  time  grew  irksome.  He  felt  the  danger  of  becoming, 
like  Morell,  a  windbag — what  George  Ade  calls  a  "  hot-air  ma- 
chine." By  1895,  the  machine  was  no  longer  by  any  means  in 
full  blast;  the  breakdown  of  Shaw's  health,  in  1898,  finished  him 
as  a  systematic  and  indefatigable  propagandist.  His  work 
went  on  almost  uninterrupted,  however,  although  it  was  no 
longer  explicit  propagandism.  Indeed,  he  worked  more  strenu- 
ously than  ever  on  the  St.  Pancras  Vestry,  now  the  St.  Pancras 
Borough  Council.     Since  1898,  Shaw  has  lectured  only  occa- 

*  "  Take  the  amusing,  cynical,  remarkable  George  Bernard  Shaw,  whose 
Irish  humour  and  brilliant  gifts  have  partly  helped,  partly  hindered  the 
(Fabian)  Society's  popularity.  This  man  will  rise  from  an  elaborate  criti- 
cism of  last  night's  opera  or  Richter  concert  (he  is  the  musical  critic  of  the 
World),  and  after  a  light,  purely  vegetarian  meal,  will  go  down  to  some 
far-off  club  in  South  London  or  to  some  street  corner  in  East  London,  or 
to  some  recognized  place  of  meeting  in  one  of  the  parks,  and  will  there 
speak  to  poor  men  about  their  economic  position  and  their  political  duties." — 
William  Clarke,  in  The  Fabian  Society  and  Its  Work.  Preface  to  Fabian 
Essays.     Ball  Publishing  Co.,  Boston,  1908. 

136 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

sionally,  but  often  enough  for  a  man  who  wishes  to  preserve 
his  health  and  strength.  His  labour  as  head  of  the  Fabian  So- 
ciety, during  the  years  1906-7,  in  giving  form  and  definiteness 
to  the  policy  of  that  society,  was  one  of  the  greatest  works  of 
his  life — a  work  to  which  he  gave  his  time  and  energy  without 
stint.  Many  of  his  Fabian  colleagues  assured  me  that  no  one 
but  Bernard  Shaw  could  have  accomplished  so  signal  and  so 
sweeping  a  victory.  Within  a  year  or  two,  he  will  doubtless 
resign  his  arduous  duties  as  head  and  centre  of  the  Fabian 
Society.  And  it  is  probable,  he  recently  told  me,  that  he  will 
never  again  undertake  another  platform  campaign. 

Shaw's  "  knack  of  drafting  things,"  as  he  calls  it,  has  played 
no  inconsiderable  figure  in  his  career.  Simultaneously  with  his 
desperate  attack  on  the  platform,  Shaw  was  acquiring  what  he 
denominates  the  "  committee  habit."  Whenever  he  joined  a 
society — even  the  Zetetical — his  marked  executive  ability  soon 
placed  him  on  the  committee.  In  learning  the  habits  of  public 
life  and  action  simultaneously  with  the  art  of  public  speaking, 
he  gained  a  great  deal  of  valuable  experience — experience  which 
cannot  be  acquired  in  conventional  grooves.  The  constant  and 
unceremonious  criticism  of  men  who  were  at  many  points  much 
abler  and  better  informed  than  himself,  developed  in  Shaw  two 
distinctive  traits — self-possession  and  impassivity.  It  is  certain 
that  his  experience  as  a  man  of  affairs  actively  engaged  in  public 
work,  municipal  and  political,  gave  him  that  behind-the-scenes 
knowledge  of  the  mechanism  and  nature  of  political  illusion 
which  seems  so  cynical  to  the  spectators  in  front. 

According  to  the  current  view,  Shaw  has  always  been  a 
voracious  man-eater,  like  a  lion  going  about  seeking  whom  he 
might  devour.  On  the  contrary,  instead  of  flinging  down  the 
gauntlet  to  any  and  every  one,  Shaw  never  challenged  anyone 
to  debate  with  him  in  public.  To  Shaw,  it  seemed  an  unfair 
practice  for  a  seasoned  public  speaker,  and  no  test  at  all  of 
the  validity  of  his  case — a  duel  of  tongues,  of  no  mort  value 
than  any  other  sort  of  duel.  In  the  eighties,  the  Socialist 
League,  of  which  William  Morris  was  the  leading  figure,  made 
an  effort  to  arrange  a  debate  between  Shaw  and  Charles  Brad- 
laugh,  who  had  graduated  from  boy  evangelism  to  the  rank  of 

137 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  most  formidable  debater  to  be  found  in  the  House  of 
Commons.  In  more  than  one  place,  but  notably  in  The  Quintes- 
sence of  Ibsenism,  Shaw  has  paid  the  highest  tribute  to  the 
remarkable  qualities  of  Bradlaugh  as  thinker  and  dialectician. 
The  Socialist  League  challenged  Bradlaugh  to  debate,  and 
chose  Shaw  as  their  champion,  although  he  was  not  even  a 
member  of  that  body.  Bradlaugh  made  it  a  condition  that 
Shaw  should  be  bound  by  all  the  pamphlets  and  utterances  of 
the  Social  Democratic  Federation,  a  strongly  anti-Fabian  body. 
Had  Shaw  been  richer  in  experience  in  such  matters,  he  would 
undoubtedly  have  let  Bradlaugh  make  what  conditions  he 
pleased,  and  then  said  his  say  without  troubling  about  them. 
As  it  was,  Shaw  proposed  a  simple  proposition,  "  Will  Social- 
ism benefit  the  English  people  ?  "  with  a  simple,  general  definition 
of  Socialism.  But  Bradlaugh  refused  this;  and  the  debate — 
as  Bradlaugh  probably  intended — did  not  come  off.  At  the 
time,  Shaw  was  somewhat  relieved  over  the  issue,  being  very 
doubtful  of  his  ability  to  make  any  great  showing  against 
Bradlaugh;  he  has  since  privately  expressed  his  regret  that  the 
debate  did  not  take  place.  Bradlaugh  was  a  tremendous  de- 
bater, and  in  point  of  "  personal  thunder  and  hypnotism " 
Shaw  would  have  been,  in  sporting  parlance,  outclassed.  But 
to  Shaw,  whose  forte  is  always  offence,  it  would  have  been  a  great 
gratification  to  tackle  Bradlaugh  in  his  own  hall — the  Hall  of 
Science,  in  Old  Street,  St.  Luke's.  At  least  Shaw  could  have 
had  his  say. 

At  a  later  time,  Bradlaugh  debated  the  question  of  the  Eight- 
Hours'  Day  with  H.  M.  Hyndman — their  second  platform 
encounter.  But  both  sides  were  dissatisfied,  as  neither  of  them 
stuck  to  his  subject,  and  the  result  was  inconclusive.  A  debate 
on  the  same  question  was  then  arranged  between  Shaw  and 
G.  W.  Foote,  Bradlaugh's  successor  as  President  of  the  National 
Secular  Society.  In  this,  Shaw's  only  public  set  debate  with  the 
exception  of  one  in  earlier  days  at  South  Place  chapel,  the  ques- 
tion was  ably  and  carefully  argued  by  both  parties,  without 
rancour,  bitterness,   or  personal  abuse.*      The   debate  lasting 

*  In  a  long  contemporary  account  of  the  debate,  a  French  newspaper 
commented  approvingly  on  the  high  tone  maintained  throughout,  placing 

138 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

two  nights,  and  presided  over  by  Mr.  G.  Standring  and  Mr. 
E.  R.  Pease  in  turn,  was  held  at  the  Hall  of  Science,  London, 
on  January  14th  and  15th,  1891.  The  verbatim  report,  which 
is  still  procurable,  exhibits  the  best  qualities  of  Shaw  as  a  cool- 
headed,  logical  debater.  His  two  speeches,  markedly  ironical 
in  tone,  are  frequently  punctuated  by  the  bracketed  (applause). 
Mr.  Foote  closed  one  of  his  speeches  with  the  rather  effulgent 
peroration,  "  Every  question  must  be  threshed  out  by  public 
debate.  Let  truth  and  falsehood  grapple — whichever  be  truth 
and  whichever  be  falsehood ;  for,  as  grand  old  John  Milton  said, 
}  Whoever  knew  truth  put  to  the  worse  in  a  free  and  open  en- 
counter? '" — a  sentiment  greeted  with  loud  applause.  To 
which  Shaw  delightfully  responded :  "  I  do  not  know,  gentlemen, 
what  a  free  and  open  encounter  might  bring  about ;  but  if  John 
Milton  asks  me  whoever  saw  truth  put  to  shame  in  such  an 
encounter  with  falsehood  as  it  has  a  chance  of  having  in  the 
present  condition  of  society,  then  I  reply  to  John  Milton  that 
George  Bernard  Shaw  has  seen  it  put  to  shame  very  often." 
Shaw  maintained  that  a  reduction  of  hours  would  raise  wages, 
not  prices,  and  that  doing  it  by  law  was  the  only  possible  way 
of  doing  it.  His  closing  words  clearly  mirror  his  view  of  the 
mission  of  Socialism,  the  reason  of  its  existence. 

"  I  can  only  say,  for  myself,  that  the  debate  has  been 
a  pleasant  one  to  me,  because  of  the  friendly  terms  on 
which  Mr.  Foote  and  I  stand.  I  even  imagine  there  is  a 
bond  between  Mr.  Foote  and  myself  that  may  serve  a  little 
to  explain  this.  Mr.  Foote  and  I,  on  a  certain  subject — 
the  established  religion  of  this  country — entertain  the  same 
views.  Now,  those  views  have  directed  our  attention  very 
strongly  towards  the  necessity  of  maintaining  the  freedom 
of  the  individual  to  hold  what  views  he  likes,  to  have  free- 
dom of  speech  and  association  for  the  purpose  of  following 
out  all  his  conclusions,  and  establishing  a  genuine  culture 

the  English  in  sharp  contrast  with  French  debates  on  similar  subjects, 
which  were  not  regarded  as  unqualified  successes  unless  they  broke  up  in 
personal  encounters,  with  the  attendant  imprecations:  "  Assassins  I  A  baa 
fo*  Socialities !    A  la  lanternet" 

139 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

founded  on  facts,  and  not  on  the  dogmas  of  any  church 
whatsoever.  I  confess  that  in  the  days  before  I  had  studied 
economic  questions  I  was  filled  with  the  necessity  of  indi- 
vidual freedom  on  these  points,  and  that  I  also  had  that 
strong  distrust  of  the  State  which  Mr.  Foote  has  expressed 
here  to-night.  But  when  my  attention  was  turned  to  the 
economic  side  of  the  question,  I  soon  became  convinced  that 
the  real  secret  of  the  State's  hostility  to  the  advance  of 
reasonable  views  was  that  Reason  condemned  the  propertied 
institutions  of  this  country.  Property  is  the  real  force 
that  hypocritically  expresses  itself  as  Religion.  I  there- 
fore came  to  the  conclusion  that  we  shall  never  get  out 
of  the  mess  we  are  in  until  the  workers  come  to  understand 
that  they  are  already  deprived  of  individual  freedom  by 
the  irresistible  physical  force  of  the  State,  and  that  they 
can  escape  from  its  oppression  only  by  seizing  on  the 
political  power,  and  using  that  very  State  force  to  emanci- 
pate themselves,  and  impose  their  will  on  the  minority  which 
now  enslaves  them.  That  is  the  reason  that,  just  as  I  urge 
the  importance  of  individual  freedom  of  speech,  so  I  also 
urge  on  the  workers  that  they  cannot  possibly  help  them- 
selves by  individual  action  so  long  as  this  terrible  State 
is  outside  them,  and  ready  to  cut  them  down  at  every 
point.  I  believe  that  they  can,  by  concerted  action,  not 
merely  in  trade  unions,  but  in  a  united  democracy,  get 
complete  control  of  the  State,  and  use  its  might  for  their 
own  purposes;  and  when  they  once  come  to  understand 
this,  I  believe  their  emancipation  will  only  be  delayed  until 
they  have  learned  from  experience  the  true  conditions  of 
social  freedom."  * 

There  is  another  feature  of  Shaw's  career  as  a  public  speaker 
which  exhibits  his  attitude  towards  the  work  in  life  he  had  set 
before  him.  Shaw  fights  for  what  seems  to  many  less  like 
liberty  than  licence  of  speech.     He  never  submitted  his  intelli- 

*  The  Legal  Eight  Hours  Question.  A  two-nights'  public  debate  be- 
tween Mr.  G.  W.  Foote  and  Mr.  George  Bernard  Shaw.  Verbatim  Report. 
London:  R.  Forder,  28,  Stonecutter  Street,  E.C.    1891. 

140 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

gence,  his  will,  or  his  power  to  alien  domination.  He  has  never 
belonged  to  any  political  party,  rightly  considered,  never 
cringed  under  any  lash,  never  realized  in  his  own  experience  what 
he  himself  has  called  the  only  real  tragedy :  "  the  being  used  by 
personally-minded  men  for  purposes  which  you  recognize  as 
base."  It  was  the  determination  to  remain  untrammelled  in 
thought  and  action  which  forbade  his  ever  accepting  payment 
for  speaking.  Very  often  provincial  Sunday  Societies  invited 
him  to  come  down  for  the  usual  ten  guineas  fee  and  give  the 
usual  sort  of  lecture,  avoiding  politics  and  religion.  Shaw's 
invariable  answer  to  such  requests  was  that  he  never  lectured 
on  anything  but  politics  and  religion,  and  that  his  fee  was  the 
price  of  his  railway  ticket  third-class,  if  the  place  was  further 
off  than  he  could  afford  to  go  at  his  own  expense.  The  Sunday 
Society  would  then  "  come  around  "  and  assure  Shaw  that  he 
might,  on  these  terms,  lecture  on  anything  he  liked;  and  he 
always  did.  Occasionally,  to  avoid  embarrassing  other  lecturers 
who  lived  by  lecturing,  the  thing  was  done  by  a  debit  and  credit 
entry :  that  is,  Shaw  took  the  usual  fee  and  expenses,  and  gave 
it  back  as  a  donation  to  the  society.  Shaw  once  related  to  me 
the  circumstances  of  a  most  interesting  contretemps,  which 
alone  would  suffice  to  justify  his  desire  for  freedom  of  speech, 
his  wisdom  in  arming  himself  against  the  accusation  of  being 
a  professional  agitator.  "  At  the  election  of  1892,  I  was  mak- 
ing a  speech  in  the  Town  Hall  of  Dover,  when  a  man  rose  and 
shouted  to  the  audience  not  to  let  itself  be  talked  to  by  a  hired 
speaker  from  London.  I  immediately  offered  to  sell  him  my 
emoluments  for  five  pounds.  He  hesitated;  and  I  came  down 
to  four  pounds.  At  last  I  offered  to  take  five  shillings — half-a- 
crown — a  shilling — sixpence — for  my  fees,  and  when  he  would 
not  take  them  at  that,  claimed  that  he  must  know  perfectly 
well  that  I  was  there  at  my  own  expense.  If  I  had  not  been 
able  to  do  this,  the  meeting,  which  was  a  difficult  and  hostile 
one  (Dover  being  a  hopeless,  corrupt  Tory  constituency)  would 
probably  have  been  broken  up." 

As  Mr.  Clarence  Rook  has  remarked,  London  first  opened 
her  eyes  in  wonder  over  the  versatile  "  G.  B.  S."  when  she  dis- 
covered that  in  the  daytime  he  preached  revolt  to  the  grimy 

141 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

East  from  a  tub,  and  in  the  evening  sent  William  Archer  and 
the  cultured  West  into  peals  of  merriment  over  his  Arms  and 
the  Man.  In  those  halcyon  transpontine  days  London  began 
to  take  pains  to  be  present  at  Shaw's  delightful  dialectical  per- 
formances at  Battersea.  Shaw  lectured  often  in  Battersea  be- 
cause it  was  John  Burns'  stronghold.  Never  was  Shaw's  sky- 
rocketing brilliance  more  effectively  displayed  than  in  one  of 
his  orations  at  the  Washington  Music  Hall,  with  Clement  Ed- 
wards in  the  chair.  In  this  oration  he  proved  that  no  con- 
clusion could  be  drawn  from  a  bare  profession  of  Socialism  as 
to  what  side  a  man  would  take  on  any  concrete  political  issue. 
In  speaking  of  this  remarkable  effort,  Mr.  Shaw  recently  told 
me  the  following  incident :  "  I  remember  hearing  a  workman  say 
to  his  wife  as  I  came  up  behind  them  on  my  way  to  the  station: 
'  When  I  hear  a  man  of  intellect  talk  like  that  for  a  whole 
evening,  it  makes  me  feel  like  a  worm.'  Which  made  me  feel 
horribly  ashamed  of  myself.  I  felt  the  shabbiest  of  impostors, 
somehow,  though  really  I  gave  him  the  best  lecture  I  could." 
With  the  exception  of  his  two  nights'  wrestle  with  G.  W.  Foote, 
Shaw's  most  sustained  effort — an  oration  lasting  about  four 
hours — was  delivered  in  the  open  air  on  a  Sunday  morning  at 
Trafford  Bridge,  Manchester.  Shaw  takes  pleasure  in  declaring 
that  one  of  his  best  speeches,  about  an  hour  and  a  half  long, 
was  delivered  in  Hyde  Park  in  the  pouring  rain  to  six  policemen 
sent  to  watch  him,  and  the  secretary  of  the  little  society  that  had 
invited  him  to  speak.  "  I  was  determined  to  interest  those 
policemen,  because  as  they  were  sent  there  to  listen  to  me,  their 
ordinary  course,  after  being  once  convinced  that  I  was  a  rea- 
sonable and  well-conducted  person,  would  be  to  pay  no  further 
attention.  But  I  quite  entertained  them.  I  can  still  see 
their  waterproof  capes  shining  in  the  rain  when  I  shut  my 
eyes." 

Courage  and  daring,  as  well  as  fertility  and  inventiveness, 
often  enabled  Shaw  to  carry  his  point  or  to  have  his  say,  in  the 
face  of  violent  and  almost  invincible  opposition.  He  has  more 
than  once  actually  voted  against  Socialism  in  order  to  forward 
the  motion  in  hand.  And  once,  in  St.  James's  Hall,  London, 
at  a  meeting  in  favour  of  Woman's  Suffrage,  he  ventured  with 

142 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

success  upon  a  curious  trick,  the  details  of  which  he  once  related 
to  me : 

"  Just  before  I  spoke  a  hostile  contingent  entered  the 
room,  and  I  saw  that  we  were  outnumbered,  and  that  an 
amendment  would  be  carried  against  us.  They  were  all 
Socialists  of  the  anti-Fabian  sort,  led  by  a  man  whom  I 
knew  very  well,  and  who  was  at  that  time  worn  out  with 
public  agitation  and  private  worry,  so  that  he  was  excita- 
ble almost  to  frenzy.  It  occurred  to  me  that  if  they,  instead 
of  carrying  an  amendment,  could  be  goaded  to  break  up 
the  meeting  and  disgrace  themselves,  the  honours  would 
remain  with  us.  I  made  a  speech  that  would  have  made 
a  bishop  swear  and  a  sheep  fight.  My  friend  the  enemy, 
stung  beyond  endurance,  dashed  madly  to  the  platform 
to  answer  me  then  and  there.  His  followers,  thinking  he 
was  leading  a  charge,  instantly  stormed  the  platform,  and 
broke  up  the  meeting.  Then  the  assailants  reconstituted 
the  meeting  and  appointed  one  of  their  number  chairman. 
I  then  demanded  a  hearing,  which  was  duly  granted  me  as 
a  matter  of  fair  play,  and  I  had  another  innings  with 
great  satisfaction  to  myself.  No  harm  was  done  and  no 
blow  struck,  but  the  papers  next  morning  described  a  scene 
of  violence  and  destruction  that  left  nothing  to  be  desired 
by  the  most  sanguinary  schoolboy." 

Like  Ibsen,  Shaw  has  barely  escaped  the  honour  of  being  im- 
prisoned— an  honour  which,  it  is  needless  to  say,  he  never 
sought.  Fortunately  for  Shaw,  the  religious  people  always 
joined  with  the  Socialists  to  resist  the  police.  Twice,  in  dif- 
ficulties raised  by  attempts  of  the  police  to  stop  street  meetings, 
Shaw  was  within  an  ace  of  going  to  prison.  The  first  time, 
the  police  capitulated  on  the  morning  of  the  day  when  Shaw 
was  the  chosen  victim.  The  second  time  Shaw  was  so  fortunate 
as  to  have  in  a  member  of  a  rival  Socialist  society  a  disputant 
for  the  martyr's  palm.  One  can  sympathize  with  Shaw's  secret 
relief  when,  on  a  division,  his  rival  defeated  him  by  two  votes ! 

One  of  the  most  remarkable  speakers  in  England  to-day,  Ber- 
nard Shaw  is  not  simply  a  talent,  a  personality :  he  is  a  public 

143 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

institution.  People  flock  to  his  lectures  and  addresses,  and  his 
bons  mots  are  quoted  in  London,  New  York,  Berlin,  Vienna  and 
St.  Petersburg.  He  is  the  most  universally  discussed  man  of 
letters  now  living.  Not  since  Byron  has  any  British  author 
enjoyed  an  international  audience  and  vogue  comparable  to 
that  enjoyed  by  Bernard  Shaw.  No  one  in  our  time  is  Shaw's 
equal  in  searching  analysis  and  trenchant  exposition  of  the  ills 
of  modern  society.  His  ability  to  see  stark  reality  and  to  know 
it  for  his  own  makes  of  him  the  most  powerful  pamphleteer, 
the  most  acute  journalist-publicist  since  the  days  of  Swift. 
His  indictments  of  the  fundamental  structure  of  contemporary 
society  prove  him  the  greatest  master  of  comic  irony  since  the 
days  of  Voltaire.  Inferior  to  Anatole  France  in  artistry  and 
urbanity,  Shaw  excels  him  in  the  strenuousness  of  his  personal 
sincerity  and  in  the  scope  of  his  purpose.  Shaw's  manner  of 
speaking  is  as  individual,  as  distinctive,  as  is  his  style  as  an 
essayist  or  his  fingering  as  a  dramatist.  That  priceless  and 
inalienable  gift  which  has  helped  to  make  Jean  Jaures  the  leader 
of  modern  Socialists — the  power  of  touching  the  emotions — is 
a  quality  which  Shaw,  like  Disraeli  before  him,  wholly  lacks. 
In  Shaw  there  is  no  spark  of  the  mesmeric  force,  the  hypnotic 
power  of  the  born  orator;  he  lacks  that  romance,  that  power 
of  dramatic  visualization,  which  is  a  quality  of  all  true  oratory. 
While  it  is  true  that  people  do  not  "  orate  "  in  England  as 
they  do  in  America,  still  there  is  a  vast  difference  between  the 
born  orator,  like  Jaures  or  Mrs.  Besant,  and  the  practised 
public  speaker,  like  Shaw.  All  that  could  be  acquired,  Shaw 
acquired.  Not  Charles  Bradlaugh  himself  had  a  more  thorough 
training  than  had  Shaw.  He  is  facile,  fluent  and  fertile;  he 
does  not  leave  all  his  qualities  behind  him  when  he  mounts 
the  platform.  In  fine,  Shaw  has  fulfilled  to  the  letter  his  early 
vow,  solemnly  taken  the  night  he  joined  the  Zetetical  Society. 
He  has  delivered  considerably  more  than  a  thousand  public 
addresses,  and  the  best  of  them  were  masterpieces  of  their  kind. 
And  yet  Shaw  has  only  a  very  ordinary  voice;  and  in  order 
to  make  himself  comfortably  heard  by  a  large  audience  he  has 
to  be  very  careful  with  his  articulation  and  to  speak  as  though 
he  were  addressing  the  auditor  furthest  from  him. 

144? 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

With  his  long,  loose  form,  his  baggy  and  rather  bizarre 
clothes,  his  nonchalant,  quizzical,  extemporaneous  appearance; 
with  his  red  hair  and  scraggly  beard,  his  pallid  face,  his  bleak 
smile,  his  searching  eyes  flashing  from  under  his  crooked  brows ; 
with  his  general  air  of  assurance,  privilege  and  impudence — Ber- 
nard Shaw  is  the  jester  at  the  court  of  King  Demos.  Startling, 
astounding,  irrepressible,  he  fights  for  opposition,  clamours 
for  denial,  demands  suppression.  Shaw  was  once  completely 
floored  by  a  workman,  who  rose  after  he  had  completed  a  mag- 
nificent pyrotechnic  display,  and  said :  "  I  know  quite  well  that 
Bernard  Shaw  is  very  clever  at  argument,  and  that  when  I 
sit  down  he  will  make  mincemeat  of  everything  I  say.  But 
what  does  that  matter  to  me?  I  still  have  my  principles." 
Shaw  had  to  admit,  as  he  once  told  me  in  speaking  of  the 
incident,  that  this  was  unanswerable  and  thoroughly  sound 
at  bottom.  "  Call  me  disagreeable,  only  call  me  something," 
clamours  Shaw ;  "  for  then  I  have  roused  you  from  your  stupid 
torpor  and  made  you  think  a  new  thought."  The  incarnation 
of  intellect,  not  of  hypnotism,  of  reason,  not  of  oratory,  this 
strange  image  of  Tolstoy  as  he  was  in  his  middle  years  has 
always  made  his  audience  think  new  thoughts.  He  has  never 
given  the  audience  what  it  liked;  he  has  always  given  it  what 
he  liked,  and  what  he  thought  it  needed:  a  bitter  and  tonic 
draught.  The  successes  of  the  orator  who  is  the  mere  mouth- 
piece of  his  audience  have  never  been  his.  But  he  has  achieved 
a  more  enviable  and  more  arduous  distinction;  I  have  heard 
him  say  with  genuine  pride  that  more  than  once  he  has  been 
the  most  unpopular  man  in  a  meeting,  and  yet  carried  a  reso- 
lution against  the  most  popular  orator  present  by  driving 
home  its  necessity.  For  the  transports  which  the  popular 
orator  raises  by  voicing  popular  sentiment  Shaw  has  no  use. 
Of  the  orator's  power  of  entrancing  people  and  having  his 
own  way  at  the  same  time  he  has  never  had  a  trace.  He  is 
the  arch-foe  of  personal  hypnotism,  of  romance,  of  sensuous 
glamour.  He  has  sought  the  accomplishment  of  the  demand  of 
his  will;  he  never  practised  speaking  as  an  art  or  an  accom- 
plishment. The  desire  for  that,  he  once  told  me,  would  never 
have  nerved  him  to  utter  a  word  in  public.     Just  as  Zola  used 

145 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

his  journalistic  work  as  a  hammer  to  drive  his  views  into  the 
brain  of  the  public,  Shaw  used  his  dialectical  skill  as  a  weapon, 
as  a  means  to  the  end  of  making  people  think.  One  might  truly 
say  of  all  the  things  that  he  has  either  spoken  or  written :  "  lis 
donnent  a  penser  furieusement"  As  a  speaker,  he  first  startled 
and  provoked  his  audience  to  thought,  and  then  annihilated  their 
objections  with  the  sword  of  logic  and  the  rapier  of  wit.  His 
ready  answer  for  every  searching  query,  his  instantaneous  leap 
over  every  tripping  barrier,  seemed  to  the  novice  a  proof  of 
very  genius.  To  strange  audiences,  his  readiness  in  answering 
questions  and  meeting  hostile  arguments  seemed  astonishing, 
miraculous.  On  several  different  occasions  I  have  heard  Mr. 
Shaw  modestly  give  the  explanation  of  this  apparently  magic 
performance.  "  The  reason  was  that  everybody  asks  the  same 
questions  and  uses  the  same  arguments.  I  knew  the  most  ef- 
fective replies  by  heart.  Before  the  questioner  or  debater  had 
uttered  his  first  word  I  knew  exactly  what  he  was  going  to 
say,  and  floored  him  with  an  apparent  impromptu  that  had 
done  duty  fifty  times  before."  Shaw  always  carefully  thought 
out  the  thing  for  himself  in  advance,  and,  which  is  far  more 
important,  had  thought  out  not  only  an  effective,  but  also  a 
witty  answer  to  the  objections  that  were  certain  to  be  raised. 
This  is  the  secret  of  Shaw's  success  in  every  task  which  he  has 
undertaken:  to  think  each  thing  out  for  himself,  and  to  couch 
it  in  terms  of  scathing  satire  and  fiery  wit.  His  is  the  sceptical 
Socratic  method  pushed  to  the  limit. 

Confronted  with  the  point-blank  question :  "  To  what  do  you 
owe  your  marvellous  gift  for  public  speaking?  "  Shaw  charac- 
teristically replied :  "  My  marvellous  gift  for  public  speaking  is 
only  part  of  the  G.  B.  S.  legend.  I  am  no  orator,  and  I  have 
neither  memory  enough  nor  presence  of  mind  enough  to  be  a 
really  good  debater,  though  I  often  seem  to  be  when  I  am  on 
ground  that  is  familiar  to  me  and  new  to  my  opponents.  I 
learned  to  speak  as  men  learn  to  skate  or  to  cycle — by  doggedly 
making  a  fool  of  myself  until  I  got  used  to  it.  Then  I  practised 
it  in  the  open  air — at  the  street  corner,  in  the  market  square, 
in  the  park — the  best  school.  I  am  comparatively  out  of  prac- 
tice now,  but  I  talked  a  good  deal  to  audiences  all  through  the 

146 


THE  CART  AND  TRUMPET 

eighties,  and  for  some  years  afterwards.  I  should  be  a  really 
remarkable  orator  after  all  that  practice  if  I  had  the  genius 
of  the  born  orator.  As  it  is,  I  am  simply  the  sort  of  public 
speaker  anybody  can  become  by  going  through  the  same  mill. 
I  don't  mean  that  he  will  have  the  same  things  to  say,  or  that 
he  will  put  them  in  the  same  words,  for,  naturally,  I  don't  leave 
my  ideas  or  my  vocabulary  behind  when  I  mount  the  tub;  but 
I  do  mean  that  he  will  say  what  he  has  to  say  as  movingly  as 
I  say  what  I  have  to  say — and  more,  if  he  is  anything  of  a 
real  orator.  Of  course,  as  an  Irishman,  I  have  some  fluency, 
and  can  manage  a  bit  of  rhetoric  and  a  bit  of  humour  on  occa- 
sion, and  that  goes  a  long  way  in  England.  But  '  marvellous 
gift '  is  all  my  eye."  * 

*  Who  I  Am,  and  What  I  Think.     Part  I.     The  Candid  Friend,  May 
11th,  1901. 


147 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

"  Of  course,  people  talk  vaguely  of  me  as  an  Anarchist,  a  visionary,  and 
a  crank.  I  am  none  of  these  things,  but  their  opposites.  I  only  want  a 
few  perfectly  practical  reforms  which  shall  enable  a  decent  and  reasonable 
man  to  live  a  decent  and  reasonable  life,  without  having  to  submit  to  the 
great  injustices  and  the  petty  annoyances  which  meet  you  now  at  every 
turn." — George  Bernard  Shaw:  an  Interview.  In  The  Chap-Book,  No- 
vember, 1896. 

"Economy  is  the  art  of  making  the  most  of  life. 
The  love  of  economy  is  the  root  of  all  virtue." 

— The  Revolutionist's  Handbook.     In  Man  and  Superman. 


CHAPTER  VI 

I  ONCE  heard  a  Socialist  of  world-wide  renown  accuse  Ber- 
nard Shaw  of  an  inconsistency  which,  to  him,  was  little  short 
of  inexplicable.  To  every  charge  of  inconsistency,  Shaw  is 
always  ready  with  the  effective  rejoinder:  "  Vhomme  absurde  est 
celui  qui  ne  change  jamais,"  To  Shaw,  the  stationary  is  the 
stagnant,  evolution  is  progress.  That  rare  literary  phenomenon, 
a  master  of  the  comic  spirit,  Shaw  is  not  only  willing  to  admit 
for  the  nonce  the  inconsistencies  in  his  own  make-up:  he  is 
positively  eager  to  make  thereof  genuine  comic  capital. 

To  the  public,  Shaw  is  his  own  greatest  paradox.  What 
defence,  they  ask,  can  be  devised  for  a  man  rooted  in  Nietz- 
scheism,  who  champions  the  Socialism  which  Nietzsche  mocked? 
Reconcile  the  ardent  apostle  of  the  levelling  democracy  of  a 
Social-Democratic  Republic  with  the  avowed  advocate  of  the 
doctrines  of  Ibsen  and  Nietzsche,  the  intellectual  aristocrats  of 
this  distinctly  social  era?  Identify  the  agitation  for  interna- 
tional disarmament,  for  universal  peace,  with  one  who  sings 
of  arms  and  the  superman?  The  Irish  Nietzsche,  the  daring 
pilgrim  in  search  of  a  moral  Ultima  Thule,  with  one  who  has 
forcibly  declared  the  impossibility  of  anarchism?  The  evan- 
gelist preaching  the  brotherhood  of  man  with  one  who  repudi- 
ates the  pacifying  sedative :  "  Sirs,  ye  are  brothers,"  in  the 
statement  that  he  has  no  brothers,  and  if  he  had,  he  would  in 
all  probability  not  agree  with  them?  What  faith  is  to  be  put 
in  the  economic  grounding  of  one  who,  in  the  course  of  two 
or  three  years,  turned  from  vigorous  defence  of  Marx's  value 
theory  to  its  "  absolute  demolition,  on  Jevonian  lines,  with  his 
own  hand"? 

It  is  very  difficult  to  understand  Shaw's  fundamental  philoso- 
phy of  Socialism  without  a  thorough  knowledge  of  the  evolu- 
tionary course  of  his  thought.  The  particular  brand  of  So- 
cialism denominated  Shavian  is  not  a  bundle  of  prejudices  of 

151 


y 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

an  immature  youth,  but  the  integration  of  years  of  day-by-day 
observations  of  life  and  character,  as  well  as  of  political  and 
economic  science.  The  diversities  of  Socialistic  faith  have  been 
wittily  exhibited  by  Shaw  in  the  opening  scenes  of  the  third 
act  of  Man  and  Superman.  Roughly  speaking,  there  are  three 
kinds  of  Socialists :  theoretical,  Utopian  and  practical.  Lassalle 
and  Marx,  Liebknecht  and  Bebel,  Guesde  and  Jaures,  Hynd- 
man  and  Kropotkin,  Shelley  and  Morris,  George  and  Bellamy, 
Shaw  and  Webb,  carry  the  stamp  of  the  cobweb-spinner,  the 
dreamer,  or  of  the  man  of  affairs.  It  is  Shaw's  supreme  dis- 
tinction that,  beginning  as  doctrinaire,  he  has  ended  as  practical 
opportunist.  He  has  sought  to  traverse  the  chasm  between 
democracy  and  social-democracy,  by  the  aid  of  a  solid  economic 
structure,  rather  than  by  the  rainbow  bridge  of  sentimentality 
and  Utopism.  No  scheme  finds  favour  in  his  eyes  which  does 
not  irresistibly  commend  itself  to  his  intelligence.  He  has 
found  the  "  true  "  doctrine  of  Socialism  in  repudiation  of  the 
follies  of  Impossibilism. 

Shaw  has  unhesitatingly  given  credit  to  Henry  George  for 
the  great  impetus  he  gave  to  Socialism  in  England,  and,  in 
particular,  for  the  important  part  George  played  in  his  own 
career.  In  speaking  of  the  memorable  evening  in  1882,  when, 
under  the  inspiration  of  George's  stirring  and  eloquent  words, 
he  first  began  to  realize  the  importance  of  the  economic  basis, 
Shaw  recently  wrote :  * 

"  One  evening  in  the  early  eighties  I  found  myself — I 
forget  how  and  cannot  imagine  why — in  the  Memorial 
Hall,  Farringdon  Street,  London,  listening  to  an  Amer- 
ican finishing  a  speech  on  the  Land  Question.  I  knew  he 
was  an  American,  because  he  pronounced  '  necessarily  ' — 
a  favourite  word  of  his — with  the  accent  on  the  third  sylla- 
ble instead  of  the  first;  because  he  was  deliberately  and 
intentionally  oratorical,  which  is  not  customary  among  shy 
people  like  the  English ;  because  he  spoke  of  Liberty,  Jus- 

*  Letter  to  Hamlin  Garland,  as  Chairman  of  the  Committee,  the  Progress 
and  Poverty  dinner,  New  York,  January  24th,  1905.  The  letter,  dated 
December,  1904,  was  kindly  lent  me  by  Mr.  Henry  George,  Jr. 

152 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

tice,  Truth,  Natural  Law,  and  other  strange  eighteenth- 
century  superstitions ;  and  because  he  explained  with  great 
simplicity  and  sincerity  the  views  of  the  Creator,  who  had 
gone  completely  out  of  fashion  in  London  in  the  previous 
decade  and  had  not  been  heard  of  there  since.  I  noticed, 
also,  that  he  was  a  born  orator,  and  that  he  had  small, 
plump,  pretty  hands. 

"  Now  at  that  time  I  was  a  young  man  not  much  past 
y  twenty-five,  of  a  very  revolutionary  and  contradictory 
temperament,  full  of  Darwin  and  Tyndall,  of  Shelley  and 
De  Quincey,  of  Michael  Angelo  and  Beethoven,  and  never 
having  in  my  life  studied  social  questions  from  the 
economic  point  of  view,  except  that  I  had  once,  in  my  boy- 
hood, read  a  pamphlet  by  John  Stuart  Mill  on  the  Irish 
Land  Question.  The  result  of  my  hearing  the  speech,  and 
buying  from  one  of  the  stewards  of  the  meeting  a  copy 
of  '  Progress  and  Poverty '  for  sixpence  (Heaven  only 
knows  where  I  got  that  sixpence!),  was  that  I  plunged 
into  a  course  of  economic  study,  and  at  a  very  early  stage 
of  it  became  a  Socialist  and  spoke  from  that  very  plat- 
form on  the  same  great  subject,  and  from  hundreds  of 
others  as  well,  sometimes  addressing  distinguished  assem- 
blies in  a  formal  manner,  sometimes  standing  on  a  bor- 
rowed chair  at  a  street  corner,  or  simply  on  the  kerbstone. 
And  I,  too,  had  my  oratorical  successes;  for  I  can  still 
recall  with  some  vanity  a  wet  afternoon  (Sunday,  of  course) 
on  Clapham  Common,  when  I  collected  as  much  as  sixteen 
and  sixpence  in  my  hat  after  my  lecture,  for  the  Cause. 
And  that  all  the  work  was  not  mere  gas,  let  the  feats  and 
pamphlets  of  the  Fabian  Society  attest ! 

"  When  I  was  thus  swept  into  the  great  Socialist  revival 
of  1883,  I  found  that  five-sixths  of  those  who  were  swept 
in  with  me  had  been  converted  by  Henry  George.  This 
fact  would  have  been  far  more  widely  acknowledged  had  it 
not  been  that  it  was  not  possible  for  us  to  stop  where 
Henry  George  stopped.  .  .  .  He  saw  only  the  monstrous 
absurdity  of  the  private  appropriation  of  rent,  and  he 
believed  that  if  you  took  that  burden  off  the  poor  man's 

153 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

back,  he  could  help  himself  out  as  easily  as  a  pioneer  on 
a  pre-empted  clearing.  But  the  moment  he  took  an  Eng- 
lishman to  that  point,  the  Englishman  saw  at  once  that 
the  remedy  was  not  so  simple  as  that,  and  that  the  argu- 
ment carried  us  much  further,  even  to  the  point  of  total 
industrial  reconstruction.  Thus  George  actually  felt 
bound  to  attack  the  Socialism  he  had  created;  and  the 
moment  the  antagonism  was  declared,  and  to  be  a  Henry 
Georgeite  meant  to  be  an  anti-Socialist,  some  of  the  So- 
cialists whom  he  had  converted  became  ashamed  of  their 
origin  and  concealed  it;  whilst  others,  including  myself, 
had  to  fight  hard  against  the  Single  Tax  propaganda." 

However  carefully  other  English  Socialists  have  endeavoured 
to  minimize  or  deny  outright  the  momentous  influence  of  Henry 
George,  certainly  Shaw  has  neither  denied  nor  belittled  their 
debt.  "  If  we  outgrew  '  Progress  and  Poverty  '  in  many  ways, 
so  did  he  himself  too;  and  it  is  perhaps  just  as  well  that  he 
did  not  know  too  much  when  he  made  his  great  campaign  here; 
for  the  complexity  of  the  problem  would  have  overwhelmed  him 
if  he  had  realized  it ;  or,  if  it  had  not,  it  would  have  rendered 
him  unintelligible.  Nobody  has  ever  got  away,  or  ever  will 
get  away,  from  the  truths  that  were  the  centre  of  his  propa- 
ganda: his  errors  anybody  can  get  away  from."  And  yet 
Shaw's  insularity  and  sense  of  British  superiority  sticks  out 
in  the  statement  that  certain  of  the  English  Socialists,  includ- 
ing himself,  regretted  that  George  was  an  American,  and,  there- 
fore, necessarily  about  fifty  years  out  of  date  in  his  economics 
and  sociology  from  the  point  of  view  of  an  older  country !  The 
absurdity  of  such  a  contention  is  glaringly  patent  on  comparison 
of  Progress  and  Poverty  with  the  tracts  of  the  Fabian  Society 
during  its  early  period:  George  was  at  least  fifty  years  ahead 
of  the  English  Socialists,  instead  of  the  reverse.  With  that 
grandiose  conceit  which  is  an  essential  item  of  his  "  stock  in 
trade,"  Shaw  has  expressed  his  eagerness  to  play  the  part  of 
Henry  George  to  America.  "  What  George  did  not  teach  you, 
you  are  being  taught  now  by  your  great  Trusts  and  Combines, 
as  to  which  I  need  only  say  that  if  you  would  take  them  over 

154 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

as  national  property  as  cheerfully  as  you  took  over  the  copy- 
rights of  all  my  early  books,  you  would  find  them  excellent 
institutions,  quite  in  the  path  of  progressive  evolution,  and  by 
no  means  to  be  discouraged  or  left  unregulated  as  if  they  were 
nobody's  business  but  their  own.  It  is  a  great  pity  that  you 
all  take  America  for  granted  because  you  were  born  in  it.  I, 
who  have  never  crossed  the  Atlantic,  and  have  taken  nothing 
American  for  granted,  find  I  know  ten  times  as  much  about 
your  country  as  you  do  yourselves;  and  my  ambition  is  to 
repay  my  debt  to  Henry  George  by  coming  over  some  day  and 
trying  to  do  for  your  young  men  what  Henry  George  did 
nearly  a  quarter  of  a  century  ago  for  me.'* 

While  Henry  George  and  his  Progress  and  Poverty  were  the 
prime  motors  in  directing  Shaw  to  Socialism,  it  was  Karl  Marx 
and  his  Capital  that  first  shunted  Shaw  on  to  the  economic 
tack.  In  1884,  the  Unitarian  minister,  Mr.  Philip  H.  Wick- 
steed,  contributed  to  To-Day  a  criticism  of  Marx  from  the  point 
of  view  of  the  school  of  mathematician-economists  founded  in 
England  on  the  treatise  on  Political  Economy  published  by  the 
late  Stanley  Jevons  in  1871.*  Mr.  Wicksteed,  whose  writings 
on  Dante  and  Scandinavian  literature  are  well  known,  was  a 
remarkable  linguist,  a  popular  preacher,  and  an  excellent  man. 
To  the  fact,  however,  that  he  was  a  mathematician  is  largely 
attributable  his  deep  interest  in  Jevons'  theory  of  value,  which 
scientifically  demolished  the  classical  theory  of  Adam  Smith, 
Ricardo  and  Cairnes,  with  its  adaptation  to  Socialism  by 
Hodgskin  and  Marx.  To  his  mathematical  training,  also,  may 
be  ascribed  the  lucidity  and  logical  clarity  of  his  application 
of  the  Jevonian  machinery  to  Marxian  theory.  So  abject  was 
the  deification  of  Marx  by  English  Socialists  at  that  time  that 
Hyndman,  whom  Shaw  thought  should  answer  the  article,  pooh- 
poohed  Wicksteed  as  beneath  his  notice.     But  the  Omniscience 


*  In  the  early  eighties  the  monthly  magazine  To-Day  was  purchased  by 
three  Socialists:  Henry  Hyde  Champion,  Percy  Frost  and  James  Leigh 
Joynes.  Mr.  Wicksteed's  article,  entitled  Das  Kapital:  a  Criticism,  ap- 
peared in  To-Day,  New  Series,  Vol.  II.,  pages  388-409,  1884;  publishers, 
The  Modern  Press,  a  printing  business  conducted  by  Messrs.  H.  H.  Cham- 
pion and  J.  C.  Foulger. 

155 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

and  Infallibility  of  Marx  were  rudely  shaken :  Mr.  Wicksteed's 
article  had  to  be  answered.  Some  years  later  Hyndman  accused 
Shaw  of  having  "  rushed  in  "  to  defend  Marx ;  but  the  question 
here  is  not  of  what  Mr.  Hyndman  thinks:  it  is  a  question  of 
fact.  Shaw  was  earnestly  requested  by  the  proprietors  of  To- 
Day  to  answer  Mr.  Wicksteed;  but  he  replied  at  once  that 
though  he  had  read  Das  Kapital  he  was  not  an  economist,  and 
that  the  reply  should  come  from  someone  with  a  real  mastery 
of  the  subject.  At  last,  after  a  discussion  one  day  in  St.  Paul's 
Churchyard,  Frost  disconsolately  remarked  to  Shaw  that  if  he 
wouldn't  do  it,  he  supposed  he,  Frost,  must.  Suddenly  Shaw 
realized,  as  he  very  recently  told  me,  that  none  of  the  others, 
so  far  as  he  could  see,  knew  any  more  about  the  subject  than  he 
himself  did;  and  he  consented  on  the  solemn  condition  that 
Wicksteed  was  to  be  allowed  space  for  a  rejoinder.  Shaw  was 
not  so  blind  as  not  to  be  deeply  impressed  by  his  own  ignorance 
of  what  Carlyle  called  the  "  dismal  science " ;  he  realized  the 
importance  to  himself  of  getting  a  sound  theoretic  basis.  "  I 
read  Jevons,"  he  afterwards  wrote,  "  and  made  a  fearful 
struggle  to  guess  what  his  confounded  differentials  meant;  for 
I  knew  as  little  of  the  calculus  as  a  pig  does  of  a  holiday."  In 
his  article  entitled  The  Jevonian  Criticism  of  Marx,  which  was 
more  of  a  counterblast  than  a  thorough  analysis  and  discussion 
of  Mr.  Wicksteed's  epoch-making  article,  Shaw  had  not  a  word 
to  say  in  defence  of  Marx's  oversight  of  "  abstract  utility."  * 
Quite  clever  in  its  Shavian  way,  Shaw's  article  did  not  get  at 
the  root  of  the  matter  at  all,  which  was  not  unnatural,  consid- 
ering that  he  was  a  novice,  and,  as  he  afterwards  freely  ad- 
mitted, completely  wrong  in  the  bargain.  After  the  appearance 
of  Mr.  Wicksteed's  brief  rejoinder  on  pages  177-179  of  the 
same  volume,  the  incident  was,  for  some  time,  closed. 

The  discussion  only  whetted  Shaw's  interest  and  left  him 
determined  to  get  to  the  bottom  of  the  economic  question.  He 
had  been  tremendously  impressed  by  the  first  volume  of  Das 
Kapital,  "  the  real  European  book,"  as  he  called  it,  which  he 
had  read  in  the  French  translation.     Even  when  he  was  under 

*This  article  appeared  in  To-Day,  New  Series,  Vol.  III.,  pages  22-26, 

1885. 

156 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

this  first  tremendous  impression,  his  misgivings  found  expression 
in  a  published  letter,  in  which  he  jocularly  pointed  out  that 
what  Marx  had  proved  was  that  we  were  all  robbing  each  other, 
and  not  that  one  class  was  robbing  another.  A  joke,  founded 
on  clever  ignorance,  may  be  a  poor  beginning  for  a  career ; 
yet  in  this  way  was  Shaw's  career  as  an  economist  begun.  Shaw 
never  doubted,  so  green  was  he,  that  Hyndman  or  some  other 
leader  would  at  once  expose  the  fallacy  in  his  letter,  and  teach 
him  something  thereby.  The  fact  that  nobody  did  probably 
started  the  misgiving  that  led  him  to  devote  so  much  time  and 
thought  to  economics. 

It  was  not  without  many  struggles,  however,  that  Shaw  was 
eventually  persuaded  to  see  the  fallacies  in  Marx's  economics. 
In  the  Hampstead  Historic  Society,  that  mutual  aid  association, 
and  in  long  private  discussions  with  Sidney  Webb,  Shaw  kept 
at  the  subject  of  Marx,  defending  him  by  every  shift  he  could 
think  of.  All  the  time,  at  bottom,  Shaw  was  satisfied  neither 
with  his  own  position  nor  with  Webb's,  which  was  that  of  John 
Stuart  Mill.  He  had  always  mistrusted  mathematical  symbols 
since  the  time  of  his  school  days,  when  a  plausible  schoolboy 
used  to  prove  to  him  by  algebra  that  one  equals  two — pre- 
sumably by  one  of  the  inadmissible  division-by-zero  proofs. 
The  boy  always  began  by  saying:  "Let  x=a."  Shaw  saw  no 
harm  in  admitting  that,  and  the  proof  followed  with  apparently 
rigorous  exactness.  "  The  effect  was  not  to  make  me  proceed 
habitually  on  the  assumption  that  one  equals  two,"  I  once 
heard  him  say  with  a  boyish  laugh ;  "  but  to  impress  upon  me 
that  there  was  a  screw  loose  somewhere  in  the  algebraic  art,  and 
a  chance  for  me  to  set  it  right  some  day  when  I  had  time  to 
look  into  the  subject."  And  so,  when  he  saw  Jevons'  x's,  his 
differentials  and  his  infinitesimals,  Shaw  at  once  thought  of  the 
plausible  boy,  and  was  fired  to  find  that  loose  screw  in  Jevonian 
economics.  The  difficulty  he  felt  most  was  that  he  could  not, 
among  Socialists,  get  into  a  sufficiently  abstract  atmosphere  to 
arrive  at  the  pure  theory  of  the  thing.  It  was  essential  to 
divorce  the  discussion  absolutely  from  the  social  question.  For- 
tunately, yet  oddly  enough,  it  was  Wicksteed  himself  who  helped 
Shaw  to  what  he  wanted.     One  of  Wicksteed's  friends,  a  pros- 

157 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

perous  stockbroker  named  Beeton,  began  inviting  a  circle  of 
friends  interested  in  economics  to  his  house.  The  To-Day  dis- 
cussion had  established  friendly  relations  between  Shaw  and 
Wicksteed ;  and  Shaw  secured  an  entry  to  this  circle  and  "  held 
on  to  it  like  grim  death  "  until  after  some  years  it  blossomed 
out  into  The  Royal  Economic  Society,  founded  the  Economic 
Journal,  and  outgrew  Beeton's  drawing-room.  Mr.  Shaw  once 
remarked  to  me  that  his  great  difficulty  was  to  see  through 
Marx's  fallacy  in  assuming  that  abstract  labour  was  the  unique 
factor  by  which  the  celebrated  equation  of  Value  was  divisible. 
"  I  couldn't,  for  the  life  of  me,"  said  Mr.  Shaw,  "  see  any 
sense  in  the  equation  2a+3b=8c.  I  actually  bought  an  Algebra 
and  tried  to  recapture  any  early  knowledge  I  might  have  had, 
but  it  was  all  gone."  And  only  the  other  day  I  ran  across  this 
book,  The  Scholar's  Algebra,  by  Lewis  Hensley,  at  a  second- 
hand book-shop  in  London.  Under  date  "  22-8-87,"  appears  the 
following,  written  in  Shaw's  remarkably  neat  stenography: 
"  What  sudden  freak  induced  me  to  purchase  this  book  ?  I  saw 
it  offered  at  a  second-hand  book-shop  in  Holborn  for  one  and 
sixpence.  For  a  time  I  was  puzzled  by  a  notion  that  the  sym- 
bols referred  to  things  instead  of  to  numbers.  For  instance, 
2a+3b  appeared  to  me  as  absurd  as  2  wrens+3  apples." 

In  a  letter  to  me  Mr.  Shaw  once  related  the  following  story 
of  his  economic  education — a  story  which  gives  the  lie  to  his 
own  strictures  on  University  education.  And  in  conversation  he 
recently  admitted  to  me  that  this  economic  training  corre- 
sponded closely  to  the  highest  form  of  University  instruction.* 
"  During  those  years  Wicksteed  expounded  '  final  utility  '  to  us 
with  a  blackboard  except  when  we  got  hold  of  some  man  from 

*  The  leading  members  of  this  club  were  Beeton,  Wicksteed,  Foxwell, 
Graham  Wallas,  F.  Y.  Edgeworth,  Alfred  Marshall,  Edward  Cunningham, 
Charles  Wright  and  Armitage  Smith.  The  club  met  monthly — from  No- 
vember to  June — during  the  years  1884  to  1889  inclusive,  when  it  came 
to  an  end  through  the  formation  of  what  was  formally  entitled  The  Eco- 
nomic Club,  organized  mainly  at  the  instance  of  Alfred  Marshall.  It  may 
be  worthy  of  mention  that  Wicksteed  dedicated  his  Alphabet  of  Econom- 
ics to  this  club.  Shaw  joined  the  club  because  he  wanted  to  learn  abstract 
economics,  and  he  occasionally  contributed  something  to  the  programme 
himself.  On  November  9th,  1886,  for  example,  he  read  a  paper  before 
the  society  on  the  subject  of  Interest. 

158 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

the  'Baltic'  (The  London  Wheat  Exchange),  or  the  like,  to 
explain  the  markets  to  us  and  afterwards  have  his  information 
reduced  to  Jevonian  theory.  Among  university  professors  of 
economics  Edgeworth  and  Foxwell  stuck  to  us  pretty  constantly, 
and  W.  Cunningham  turned  up  occasionally.  Of  course,  the 
atmosphere  was  by  no  means  Shavian;  but  that  was  exactly 
what  I  wanted.  The  Socialist  platform  and  my  journalistic 
pulpits  involved  a  constant  and  most  provocative  forcing  of 
people  to  face  the  practical  consequences  of  theories  and  beliefs, 
and  to  draw  mordant  contrasts  between  what  they  professed 
or  what  their  theories  involved  and  their  life  and  conduct.  This 
made  dispassionate  discussion  of  abstract  theory  impossible.  At 
Beeton's  the  conditions  were  practically  university  conditions. 
There  was  a  tacit  understanding  that  the  calculus  of  utilities 
and  the  theory  of  exchange  must  be  completely  isolated  from 
the  fact  that  we  lived,  as  Morris's  mediaeval  captain  put  it,  by 
'  robbing  the  poor.'  " 

In  the  heated  discussions  over  Marx's  economic  theories  which 
followed  during  the  next  few  years,  Shaw  enjoyed  an  immense 
advantage  in  that  nobody  else  in  the  Socialist  movement  had 
gone  through  this  discipline,  which  required  considerable  perse- 
verance and  deep  scientific  conviction.  It  ended,  as  Shaw  main- 
tains, in  his  finding  out  Marx  and  Hyndman  completely  as 
economists.  In  Shaw's  present  view  Marx  was  less  an  economist 
than  a  revolutionary  Socialist,  employing  political  economy  as 
a  weapon  against  his  adversaries :  to  Marx,  the  economic  theory 
of  Ricardo  was  simply  a  "  stick  to  beat  the  capitalist  dog." 
To  Hyndman,  doubt  of  any  part  of  the  "  Bible  of  the  working 
classes  "  was  Socialist  heresy :  the  whole  issue  resolved  itself  into 
the  question  whether  Jevons  was  a  Socialist  or  an  anti-Socialist.* 
No  doubt  the  influence  which  moved  Shaw  to  devote  himself  to 
economic  studies  was  his  need  of  a  weapon ;  but  he  did  not  stop 
to  ask  whether  the  steel  came  from  a  Socialist  foundry  or  not. 
"  The  Marxian  steel  was  always  snapping  in  my  hand,"  he  once 

*As  late  as  1905  Mr.  E.  Belfort  Bax  is  found  maintaining  that  Jevons 
was  the  mere  tool  of  capitalism,  seeking  to  undermine  the  Marxian  theory 
of  value  in  the  interests  of  social  order  and  political  stability.  Compare 
his  article,  Socialism  and  Bourgeois  Culture,  in  Wilshire's  Magazine,  1905. 

159 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

remarked  to  me.  "  The  Jevonian  steel  held  and  kept  its  edge, 
and  fitted  itself  to  every  emergency.  And  then,  just  as  one 
loves  a  good  sword  for  its  own  sake,  so  one  loves  a  sound  theory 
for  its  own  sake."  As  a  literary  artist  also,  accustomed  to 
express  himself  in  terse  and  pointed  phrase,  Shaw  was  fired 
with  determination  to  extricate  the  theory  from  its  "  damned 
shorthand  "  of  mathematical  symbols,  and  put  it  into  human 
language.* 

On  the  appearance  of  the  English  translation  from  the  third 
German  edition  of  Das  Kapital,  by  Samuel  Moore  and  Edward 
Aveling,  in  1887,  Shaw  reviewed  it  in  three  consecutive  articles. f 
These  articles  of  Shaw's  show  that  in  1887  his  conversion  by 
Wicksteed  was  complete.  In  Shaw's  article,  Stanley  Jevons: 
His  Letters  and  Journal,  a  review  of  the  Letters  and  Journal  of 
W.  Stanley  Jevons,  which  appeared  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette, 
May  29th,  1886,  he  says:  "  He  (Jevons)  was  far  too  orthodox 
in  his  practical  conclusions  for  those  materialists  of  the  science — 
the  revolutionary  Socialists — who  saw  in  him  a  mere  '  bourgeois 
economist,'  as  their  phrase  goes.  He  does  not  seem  to  have 
had  any  suspicion  that  Mr.  Hyndman  and  his  friends  made 
any  economic  pretensions  at  all;  but  it  is  remarkable  that  the 
most  successful  attack  so  far  on  the  value  theory  of  Karl  Marx 
has  come  from  Mr.  Philip  Wicksteed,  a  well-known  Unitarian 
minister,  who  is  an  able  follower  of  Jevons  in  economics."  Shaw 
was  now  the  complete  Jevonian,  had  thrown  the  Marxian  theory 
completely  over,  and  exactly  located  the  step  Marx  missed. 
Shaw  himself  readily  admits  that  Marx  came  within  one  step 
of  the  real  solution.  Whilst  Marx  left  Shaw  unconvinced  as 
to   Marxian  economics,  he  left  him  profoundly  imbued  with 

*  This  Shaw  achieved  with  great  success  in  his  review,  in  three  parts,  of 
Das  Kapital,  English  translation,  which  appeared  in  the  National  Reformer. 

f  The  National  Reformer,  now  extinct,  then  the  weekly  organ  of  the 
National  Secular  Society,  editors,  Charles  Bradlaugh  and  Annie  Besant; 
policy,  Atheism,  Malthusianism  and  Republicanism.  These  articles,  three 
in  number,  under  the  general  heading  Karl  Marx  and  'Das  Kapital/ 
appeared  in  Vol.  I.,  pages  84-86,  106-108,  117,  118.  On  receiving  a  cheque 
for  these  articles  at  a  rate  which  he  felt  sure  the  National  Reformer 
could  not  afford,  Shaw  found  that  the  beneficent  Mrs.  Besant  had  made 
a  contribution  from  her  private  purse,  which  Shaw  characteristically  hurled 
back  with  indignant  gratitude. 

160 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

Marxian  convictions.  In  Marx,  Shaw  discerned  one  who  "  wrote 
of  the  nineteenth  century  as  if  it  were  a  cloud  passing  down  the 
wind,  changing  its  shape  and  fading  as  it  goes ;  whilst  Ricardo 
the  stockbroker  and  De  Quincey  the  high  Tory,  sat  comfortably 
down  before  it  in  their  office  and  study  chairs  as  if  it  were  the 
Great  Wall  of  China,  safe  to  last  until  the  Day  of  Judgment 
with  an  occasional  coat  of  whitewash."  While  refusing  to  deify 
Marx  as  a  god,  Shaw  lauds  him  with  what  is,  for  him,  the  rarest 
of  panegyrics.  "  He  (Marx)  never  condescends  to  cast  a 
glance  of  useless  longing  at  the  past :  his  cry  to  the  present  is 
always,  '  Pass  by :  we  are  waiting  for  the  future.'  Nor  is  the 
future  at  all  mysterious,  uncertain,  or  dreadful  to  him.  There 
is  not  a  word  of  hope  or  fear,  nor  appeal  to  chance  or  provi- 
dence, nor  vain  remonstrance  with  Nature,  nor  optimism,  nor 
enthusiasm,  nor  pessimism,  nor  cynicism,  nor  any  other  familiar 
sign  of  the  giddiness  which  seizes  men  when  they  climb  to 
heights  which  command  a  view  of  the  past,  present  and  future 
of  human  society.  Marx  keeps  his  head  like  a  god.  He  has 
discovered  the  law  of  social  development,  and  knows  what  must 
come.     The  thread  of  history  is  in  his  hand." 

The  point  to  be  grasped,  however,  is  contained  in  Shaw's 
admonition :  "  Read  Jevons  and  the  rest  for  your  economics, 
and  read  Marx  for  the  history  of  their  working  in  the  past,  and 
the  conditions  of  their  application  in  the  present.  And  never 
mind  the  metaphysics."  Shaw  stood  upon  the  shoulders  of 
giants,  for  Jevons  had  laid  the  foundations,  and  Wicksteed  it 
was  who  first  pointed  out  to  English  Socialists  the  flaw  inj 
Marx's  analysis  of  wares.*  But  in  that  remarkably  succinct 
and  lucid  style  for  which  he  is  justly  famous,  Shaw  elaborately 
analyzed  the  questionable  points  in  the  Marxian  structure  and 
explained  the  latent  errors  involved,  for  the  comprehension,  not 
simply  of  the  economist,  but  of  the  man-in-the-street.  It  is 
neither  possible,  nor  even  desirable,  here  to  give  the  steps  by 
which  Shaw  controverted  Marx;  reference  to  Shaw's  numerous 

*  These  ideas  seem  to  have  found  expression  simultaneously  in  England 
and  Austria.  Compare  The  Theory  of  Political  Economy,  by  W.  S.  Jevons, 
London,  1871;  Grundsatze  der  Volkswirtschaftslehre,  by  Anton  Menger, 
Vienna,  1871. 

161 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

articles  on  the  subject  will  give  these  to  the  curious.  But  the 
conclusions  he  reached  are  worthy  of  enumeration.*  In  the 
first  place,  Shaw  objected  to  Marx's  dogmatic  assertion  of  the 
generally  accepted  Ricardian  theory  that  "  wares  in  which  equal 
quantities  of  labour  are  embodied,  or  which  can  be  produced 
in  the  same  time,  have  the  same  value " ;  and  for  the  simple 
reason  that  the  Jevonian  theory  called  this  dogma  into  question. 
In  the  second  place,  following  Wicksteed,  Shaw  takes  Marx 
to  task  for  first  insisting  that  the  abstract  labour  used  in  the 
production  of  wares  does  not  count  unless  it  is  useful,  and  then 
contradicting  himself  by  stripping  the  wares  of  the  abstract 
utility  conferred  upon  them  by  abstractly  useful  work.  The 
logical  consequence  of  admitting  abstract  utility  as  a  quality 
of  wares  produced  by  abstract  human  labour  is  conclusively  to 
disconnect  value  from  mere  abstract  human  labour.  Marx  thus 
adroitly  begs  the  question:  as  Shaw  says :  "  It  is  as  if  he  (Marx) 
had  proved  by  an  elaborate  series  of  abstractions  that  liquids 
were  fatal  to  human  life,  and  had  finished  by  remarking :  *  Of 
course,  the  liquids  must  be  poisonous.'  "  Armed  with  the  fact 
of  abstract  utility,  and  the  Jevonian  weapons  of  "  the  law  of 
indifference  "  and  "  the  law  of  the  variation  of  utility,"  Shaw 
was  enabled  to  prove  with  mathematical  rigour  that  value  does 
not  represent  the  specific  utility  of  the  article,  but  its  abstract 
utility ;  and  not  its  total  abstract  utility,  but  its  final  abstract 
utility — at  the  "  margin  of  supply,"  in  Wicksteed's  phrase — i.e., 
the  utility  of  the  final  increment  that  is  worth  producing. 
Translated  into  terms  of  labour,  this  means  that  the  value  of 
the  ware  represents,  not  the  quantity  of  human  labour  embodied 
in  it,  but  the  "  final  utility,"  in  Jevonian  phrase,  of  the  abstract 
human  labour  socially  necessary  to  produce  it.  As  Shaw  puts 
it :  "  Instead  of  wares  being  equal  in  value  because  equal  quanti- 
ties of  labour  have  been  expended  on  them,  equal  quantities  of 
labour  will  have  been  expended  on  them  because  they  are  of 

*  The  question  of  the  validity  of  the  Marxian  theory  is  not  now  a  live 
subject  in  England.  Mr.  Hyndman's  defence  of  the  Marxian  position  is  to 
be  found  in  his  Economics  of  Socialism,  in  which  he  attempts  to  demon- 
strate the  "  final  futility  of  final  utility."  It  is  still  a  mooted  question  on 
the  Continent;  compare,  for  example,  the  works  of  Bohm-Bawerk,  perhaps 
the  most  eminent  of  the  "  Austrian  School "  of  political  economists. 

162 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

equal  value  (or  equally  desirable),  which  is  quite  another  thing. 
That  slip  in  the  analysis  of  wares  whereby  Marx  was  led  to 
believe  that  he  had  got  rid  of  the  abstract  utility  when  he  had 
really  only  got  rid  of  the  specific  utility,  was  the  first  of  his 
mistakes."  Under  certain  ideal  conditions,  there  is  a  coinci- 
dence between  "  exchange  value  "  and  "  amount  of  labour  con- 
tained " ;  but  as  these  ideal  conditions  seldom,  if  ever,  occur 
in  practice,  no  scientific  validity  attaches  to  the  Marxian  state- 
ment that  "  commodities  in  which  equal  quantities  of  labour  are 
embodied,  or  which  can  be  produced  in  the  same  time,  have  the 
same  value."  Lastly,  Shaw  insists  that  if  Marx's  theory  of 
value  were  correct,  it  would  refute,  not  confirm,  Marx's  theory 
of  "  surplus  value."  The  proprietor's  monopoly  completely 
upsets  those  ideal  conditions  on  which  Marx's  theory  of  value 
is  based.  It  can  be  demonstrated  by  Jevonian  principles  that 
Marx's  assumption,  that  the  subsistence  wage  is  the  value  of 
the  labour  force,  is  untenable,  even  on  Marxian  principles. 
Marx  did  not  see  that  it  is  impossible,  according  to  the  "  law 
of  indifference,"  for  one  part  of  the  stock  of  a  commodity 
available  at  any  given  time  to  have  value  whilst  another  part 
has  none,  since  no  man  will  give  a  price  for  that  which  he  can 
obtain  for  nothing.  Moreover,  when  he  attempts  to  differentiate 
labour  power  from  steam  power,  Marx's  logic  breaks  down.  As 
Shaw  says :  "  Marx's  whole  theory  of  the  origin  of  surplus 
value  depends  on  the  accuracy  of  his  demonstration  that  steam 
power,  machinery,  etc.,  cannot  possibly  produce  surplus  value. 
If  Marx  were  right  then  a  capital  of  ten  thousand  pounds, 
invested  in  a  business  requiring  nine  thousand  pounds  for  ma- 
chinery and  plant,  and  one  thousand  pounds  for  wages  (or 
human  labour  power),  would  only  return  one-ninth  of  the 
surplus  value  returned  by  an  equal  capital  of  which  one  thousand 
pounds  was  in  the  form  of  plant  and  nine  thousand  pounds  in 
wage  capital.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  '  surplus  value '  from 
both  is  found  to  be  equal."  * 

*  These  conclusions  were  reached  before  the  third  volume  of  Capital 
appeared.  The  editor  of  the  first  volume,  Mr.  Frederick  Engels,  promised 
that  the  third  volume,  when  it  appeared,  would  reconcile  these  and  other 
seeming  contradictions.  Marx  does  seem  to  have  modified  certain  of  his 
theories  in  the  third  volume. 

163 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Shaw  saw  plainly  enough  that  the  theory  of  value  did  not 
matter  in  the  least  so  far  as  the  soundness  of  Socialism  was 
concerned.  For,  as  he  once  expressed  it  in  a  letter  to  me,  "  if 
you  steal  a  turnip  the  theory  of  the  turnip's  value  does  not 
affect  the  social  and  political  aspect  of  the  transaction."  But, 
of  course,  Hyndman  and  the  few  Socialists  who  had  read  Marx 
and  nothing  else,  were  furious  over  Shaw's  iconoclastic  articles 
in  the  National  Reformer.  In  view  of  the  fact  that  the  oppo- 
nents of  Socialism  continually  damaged  the  cause  of  the  So- 
cialists by  alleging  that  the  Socialists'  economic  basis  was  Marx's 
theory  and  was  untenable,  with  the  result  that  the  Socialists 
persisted  in  accepting  the  allegation  and  defending  Marx,  Shaw 
resolutely  forced  the  quarrel  into  publicity  as  far  as  he  could. 
His  prime  object  was  to  make  it  clear  that  the  Fabians  were 
quite  independent  of  the  Marxian  value  theory.  A  heated  con- 
troversy on  the  subject  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette  of  May,  1887, 
engaged  in  by  Shaw,  Hyndman,  and  Mrs.  Besant,  did  not  down 
the  ghost  of  the  value  theory ;  for  the  controversy  was  reopened 
in  To-Day  two  years  later.  An  Economic  Eirenicon,  by  Graham 
Wallas,  was  followed  by  Marx's  Theory  of  Value,  contributed 
by  H.  M.  Hyndman,  in  which,  it  seems,  he  merely  repeated  the 
old  Marxian  demonstration  without  making  any  attempt  to  meet 
the  Jevonian  attack.  Whereupon  Shaw  "  went  for  "  Hyndman 
in  his  most  aggravating  style  in  an  article  entitled  Bluffing  the 
Value  Theory,  which  finished  the  campaign  except  for  a  series 
of  letters  in  Justice  by  various  hands,  the  tenth  of  which,  in 
July,  1889,  was  written  by  Shaw.  There  were  other  letters  by 
Shaw  on  the  same  subject,  written  at  different  times,  which  ap- 
peared in  the  Daily  Chronicle.  William  Morris  never  made  any 
pretence  of  having  followed  the  controversy  on  its  abstract 
technical  side;  and  perhaps  the  most  amusing  feature  of  the 
entire  campaign  was  a  sort  of  manifesto  which  Belfort  Bax 
induced  Morris  to  sign,  in  which  Hyndman,  Bax,  Aveling  and 
Morris  declared  that  all  good  Socialists  were  Marxites !  Shaw 
was  once  denounced  in  public  meeting  by  a  Marxian  Socialist 
for  pooh-poohing  Marx  as  an  idiot.  His  own  position,  as  he 
himself  once  remarked  to  me,  lay  somewhere  between  this  and 
that  of  worshipping  Marx  as  a  god.     In  one  of  the  most  re- 

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markable  essays  ever  written  by  Shaw,  entitled  The  Illusions  of 
Socialism,  Shaw  pointed  out  why  it  was  that  a  difficult  and 
subtle  theory  like  that  of  Jevons  could  never  be  as  acceptable 
as  a  crude  and  simple  labour  theory  like  that  of  Marx,  which 
seemed  to  imply  that  wealth  rightly  belonged  to  the  labourer.* 
From  the  standpoint  of  the  Marxian  religionist,  the  second 
heresy  of  which  Shaw  is  guilty  consists  in  his  recognition  of 
the  Class  War  doctrine  as  a  delusion  and  a  suicidal  political 
policy.  To  Shaw,  the  form  of  organization  deduced  from  the 
Class  War  doctrine  is  always  the  same.  "  All  you  have  to  do 
is  to  form  a  working-class  association,  declare  war  on  property, 
explain  the  economic  situation  from  the  platform  and  at  the 
street  corner,  and  wait  until  the  entire  proletariat  (made  '  class- 
conscious  '  by  your  lucid  lectures)  joins  you.  This  being  done 
simultaneously  in  London,  Paris,  Berlin,  Madrid,  Rome,  Vienna, 
etc.,  etc.,  nothing  remains  but  a  simultaneous  movement  of  the 
proletarians  of  all  countries,  and  the  sweeping  of  capitalism 
into  the  sea  because  '  ye  are  many :  they  are  few.'  What  can 
be  easier  or  more  scientific  ?  "  But  a  study  of  the  history  of 
Socialism  led  Shaw  to  the  discovery  that  the  Class  War  theory 
had  gone  to  pieces  every  time  it  had  been  invoked.  Lassalle 
attempted  to  organize  the  imaginary  class-conscious  proletariat, 
only  to  be  disillusioned  before  the  end  of  the  first  year  by  the 

*In  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette  the  following  articles  appeared:  Marx  and 
Modern  Socialism,  by  Shaw,  May  7th,  1887,  page  3;  Hyndman's  reply,  May 
11th,  page  11;  Shaw's  rejoinder — Socialists  at  Home  (this  heading  doubt- 
less a  jibe  of  the  editor),  May  12th,  page  11;  Hyndman's  rejoinder,  May 
16th,  page  2;  Mrs.  Besant's  article  on  the  same  subject,  May  24th,  page  2. 
In  To-Day,  Vol.  XI.,  New  Series,  1889,  appeared:  An  Economic  Eirenicon, 
by  Graham  Wallas,  pages  80-86;  Marx's  Theory  of  Value,  by  Hyndman, 
same  volume,  pages  94-104;  Shaw's  reply,  Bluffing  the  Value  Theory,  fol- 
lowing Hyndman,  May,  1889,  pages  128-135,  was  lately  reprinted  by  Eduard 
Bernstein  in  Sozialistische  Monatshefte.  Shaw's  letter  in  Justice  appeared 
on  page  3  of  the  issue  of  July  20th,  1889.  The  fine  essay,  entitled  The 
Illusions  of  Socialism,  quite  penetrating  in  its  psychology,  although 
caviare  to  the  ordinary  reviewer,  originally  appeared  in  German  in  Die 
Zeit  (Vienna),  in  1896:  No.  108,  October  24th,  and  No.  109,  October  31st; 
later  it  appeared  in  English  in  Forecasts  of  the  Coming  Century,  edited 
by  Edward  Carpenter,  Manchester:  Labour  Press,  1897;  it  afterwards  ap- 
peared in  French  in  L'HumaniU  Nouvelle  (Ghent  and  Paris),  August,  1900, 
edited  by  Auguste  Hamon,  the  well-known  Socialist  and  the  French  trans- 
lator of  Shaw's  plays. 

165 


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GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

"  damned  wantlessness  "  of  the  real  proletariat.  Owen  before 
him  likewise  had  failed,  after  apparently  converting  all  Trade- 
Unionism  to  his  New  Moral  World.  When  Marx  planned  the 
Socialist  side  of  "  The  International "  in  the  sixties,  he  showed 
his  contempt  for  the  trade-union  side,  with  the  result :  "  On  the 
trade-union  side  a  great  success.  ...  On  the  Socialist  side, 
futility  and  disastrous  failure,  culminating,  in  1871,  in  one  of 
the  most  appalling  massacres  known  to  history."  Marx  can 
scarcely  be  said  to  have  tried  to  organize  the  class-conscious 
proletariat;  but  the  moment  his  useless  vituperation  of  Thiers, 
"  brilliant  as  a  sample  of  literary  invective,  but  useless  for  the 
buttering  of  parsnips,"  made  known  to  English  workmen  his 
real  opinion  of  bourgeois  civilization,  they  abandoned  him  in 
horror  and  left  the  International  member  less.  In  Germany, 
"  Liebknecht  made  no  serious  headway  until  he  became  a  parlia- 
mentarian, playing  the  parliamentary  game  more  pliably  than 
Parnell  did,  though  always  6  old-soldiering '  his  way  with  the 
greenhorns  by  prefacing  each  compromise  with  the  declaration 
that  Social  Democracy  never  compromised."  In  France,  Jaures 
and  Millerand  have  not  so  much  abandoned  the  Class  War  doc- 
trine as  wholly  neglected  and  ignored  it,  thus  reducing  the  old 
Guesdist  Marxism  to  absurdity.  In  England,  "  the  once  revo- 
lutionary Social-Democratic  Federation  has  been  forced  by  the 
competition  of  the  quite  constitutional  Independent  Labour 
Party  to  give  up  all  its  ancient  Maccabean  poetry,  and,  after 
a  period  of  uselessness  and  surpassing  unpopularity  as  an  anti- 
Fabian  Society  with  a  speciality  for  abusing  Mr.  John  Burns, 
to  settle  down  into  a  sort  of  Ultra-Independent  Labour  Party, 
ready  to  amalgamate  with  its  rival  if  only  an  agreement  can 
be  arrived  at  as  to  which  is  to  be  considered  as  swallowing  the 
other." 

Not  merely  a  study  of  the  Class  War  doctrine  from  the  his- 
torical standpoint,  but  also  an  examination  into  the  assumptions 
upon  which  it  rests,  have  thoroughly  convinced  Shaw  that  So- 
cialists have  for  long  been  making  overdrafts  upon  their  Capital. 
Shaw  has  never  sought  to  shirk  the  real  point  at  issue  by  the 
quibble  of  substituting  the  sort  of  class-consciousness  called 
snobbery,  mighty  as  is  that  social  force,  for  the  economic  class- 

166 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

consciousness  of  the  German  formula.  In  Shaw's  interpretation, 
Hyndman  and  the  Marxists  use  the  term  "  Class  War  "  to  denote 
a  war  between  all  the  proletarians  on  one  side  and  all  the  prop- 
erty-holders on  the  other — in  Schaeffle's  phrase  "  a  definite 
confrontation  of  classes  " — which  will  be  produced  when  the 
workers  become  conscious  that  their  economic  interests  are  op- 
posed to  those  of  the  property-holders.  Shaw's  position  is  ef- 
fectively summed  up  in  his  words : 

"  The  people  understand  their  own  affairs  much  better 
than  Marx  did,  and  the  simple  stratification  of  society  into 
two  classes  .  .  .  has  as  little  relation  to  actual  social 
facts  as  Marx's  value  theory  has  to  actual  market  prices. 
If  the  crude  Marxian  melodrama  of  '  The  Class  War ;  or, 
the  Virtuous  Worker  and  the  Brutal  Capitalist,'  were  even 
approximately  true  to  life,  the  whole  capitalist  structure 
would  have  tumbled  to  pieces  long  ago,  as  the  '  scientific 
Socialists '  were  always  expecting  it  to  do,  instead  of  con- 
solidating itself  on  a  scale  which  has  already  made  Marx 
and  Engels  as  obsolete  as  the  Gracchi  had  become  in  the 
time  of  Augustus.  By  throwing  up  fabulous  masses  of 
'  surplus  value,'  and  doubling  and  trebling  the  incomes  of 
the  well-to-do  middle  classes,  who  all  imitate  the  imperial 
luxury  and  extravagance  of  the  millionaires,  Capitalism  has 
created,  as  it  formerly  did  in  Rome,  an  irresistible 
proletarian  bodyguard  of  labourers  whose  immediate  inter- 
ests are  bound  up  with  those  of  the  capitalists,  and  who 
are,  like  their  Roman  prototypes,  more  rapacious,  more 
rancorous  in  their  Primrose  partisanship,  and  more  hard- 
ened against  all  the  larger  social  considerations,  than  their 
masters,  simply  because  they  are  more  needy,  ignorant 
and  irresponsible.  Touch  the  income  of  the  rich,  and  the 
Conservative  proletarians  are  the  first  to  suffer."  * 

In  Shaw's  opinion,  the  social  struggle  does  not  follow  class 
lines  at  all,  because  the  people  who  really  hate  the  capitalist 

*  The  Class  War,  in  the  Clarion,  September  30th,  1904. 

167 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

system  are,  like  Ruskin,  Morris,  Tolstoy,  Hyndman,  Marx  and 
Lassalle,  themselves  capitalists,  whereas  the  fiercest  defenders 
of  it  are  the  masses  of  labourers,  artisans,  and  employees  whose 
trade  is  at  its  best  when  the  rich  have  most  money  to  spend. 
Socialists  like  Shaw,  who  "  do  not  accept  the  class  war,"  are 
simply  expressing  "  first,  a  very  natural  impatience  of  crying 
*  War,  War ! '  where  there  is  no  war ;  and,  second,  their  despair 
at  seeing  Socialism,  like  Liberalism,  perishing  because  it  is  try- 
ing to  live  on  the  crop  of  home-made  generalizations  so  plenti- 
fully put  forth  during  the  great  Liberal  boom  of  1832-80  by 
middle-class  paper  theorists  like  Malthus,  Cobden,  Marx,  Comte 
and  Herbert  Spencer — fine  fellows,  all  of  them,  but  stupendously 
ignorant  of  the  industrial  world."  The  basic  divergence  be- 
tween the  Fabian  and  the  "  S.  D.  F."  policy  is  epitomized  in 
Shaw's  words :  "  There  is  a  conflict  of  interests  between  those 
who  pay  wages  and  those  who  receive  them ;  and  this  is  organ- 
ized by  the  trade  unions.  There  is  another  conflict  of  interests 
between  those  workers  and  proprietors  whose  customers  live  on 
rent  (in  its  widest  economic  sense),  and  those  whose  customers 
live  on  wages ;  but  the  lines  of  this  conflict  run,  not  between  the 
classes,  but  right  through  them,  and  do  not  coincide  with  the 
lines  of  the  trade  union  conflict.  And  any  form  of  Socialist 
organization,  or  any  tactics  toward  the  trade  union  movement, 
based  on  the  theory  that  the  lines  of  battle  do  run  between  the 
classes  and  not  through  them,  or  do  coincide  with  the  trade 
union  lines  of  battle,  will  prove,  and  always  has  proved,  dis- 
astrously impracticable."  Shaw  exasperatingly  said  in  a  recent 
article  *  that  he  refused  to  agree  with  anybody  on  any  subject 
whatsoever.  "  Let  them  agree  with  me  if  my  arguments  con- 
vince them.  If  not,  let  them  plank  down  their  own  views.  I 
will  not  have  my  mouth  stopped  and  my  mind  stifled."  And 
those  mystic  forces — historical  development  and  Progress  with 
a  large  P — in  which  the  Marxists  rest  their  firmest  hope,  Shaw 
regards  in  the  spirit  of  Ingoldsby's  sacristan : 

*  Shaw's  position  in  regard  to  the  Class  War  is  ably  set  forth  in  his  three 
articles,  under  the  general  heading,  The  Class  War,  which  appeared  in 
the  Clarion,  London;  dates:  September  30th,  October  21st  and  November 
4th,  1904. 

168 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

"The  sacristan  he  said  no  word  to  indicate  a  doubt; 
But  he  put  his  thumb  unto  his  nose,  and  he  spread  his  fingers  out." 

There  are  two  factors  which  strongly  militate  against  the 
progress  of  Socialism;  the  resolute  adherence  of  Socialists  to 
those  theories  and  policies  of  Marx  which  time,  experience,  and 
modern  economic  science  have  combined  to  discredit;  and  the 
tendency  of  the  popular  mind  to  confuse  Socialism  with 
Anarchism.*  Shaw's  most  important  negative  and  destructive 
achievements  consist  in  those  amazingly  clever  and  interesting 
papers  in  which  he  attempts  to  expose  Marx's  theory  of  value 
as  an  exploded  fallacy,  to  show  that  the  Class  War  will  never 
come,  and  to  demonstrate  the  impossibilities  of  Anarchism.  In 
the  technical  sense  of  Socialist  economics,  Shaw  occupies  the 
opposite  pole  to  Individualism  and  Anarchism.  And  yet  in  a 
very  definite  and  general  sense,  Shaw  is  a  thorough-paced  indi- 
vidualist and  anarchist.  If  individualist  means  a  believer  in  the 
Shakespearean  injunction  "  To  thine  own  self  be  true!  ",  in  the 
Ibsenic  doctrine  "  Live  thine  own  life ! ",  then  Shaw  is  an  indi- 
vidualist heart  and  soul.  If  anarchist  means  an  enemy  of  con- 
vention, of  tradition,  of  current  modes  of  administering  justice, 
of  prevailing  moral  standards,  then  Shaw  is  the  most  revolu- 
tionary anarchist  now  at  large.  If,  on  the  other  hand,  Individ- 
ualist means  one  who  distrusts  State  action  and  is  jealous  of 
the  prerogative  of  the  individual,  proposing  to  restrict  the  one 
and  to  extend  the  other  as  far  as  is  humanly  possible,  then  Shaw 
is  most  certainly  not  an  Individualist.  If  Anarchist  means 
dynamitard,  incendiary,  assassin,  thief;  champion  of  the  abso- 
lute liberty  of  the  individual  and  the  removal  of  all  govern- 
mental   restraint;    or    even    a    believer,    as    Communist,    in    a 

*  In  1888  Shaw  wrote  two  very  clever  articles,  which  so  far  seem  to  have 
escaped  attention,  although  the  disguise  is  so  thin  as  to  be  negligible.  These 
two  articles  are,  respectively,  My  Friend  Fitzthunder,  the  Unpractical 
Socialist,  by  Redbarn  Wash — note  the  anagram — {To-Bay,  edited  by  Hubert 
Bland,  August,  1888),  and  Fitzthunder  on  Himself — A  Defence,  by 
Robespierre  Marat  Fitzthunder  (To-Day,  September,  1888).  These  very 
amusing  papers,  both  written  by  Shaw,  it  is  needless  to  say,  constitute  a 
reductio  ad  absurdum  of  the  unpractical  and  revolutionary  Socialist;  Fitz- 
thunder is  evidently  a  composite  picture,  made  up  from  a  number  of  Shaw's 
Socialist  confreres. 

169 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

profound  and  universal  sense  of  high  moral  responsibility 
present  in  all  humanity,  then  Shaw  is  a  living  contradiction 
of  Anarchism. 

Shaw  opposes  Individualist  Anarchism  since,  under  such  a 
social  arrangement,  the  prime  economic  goal  of  Socialism:  the 
just  distribution  of  the  premiums  given  to  certain  portions  of 
the  general  product  by  the  action  of  demand,  would  never  be 
attained.  As  this  system  not  only  fails  to  distribute  these 
premiums  justly,  but  deliberately  permits  their  private  appro- 
priation, Individualist  Anarchism  is,  in  Shaw's  view,  "  the  nega- 
tion of  Socialism,  and  is,  in  fact,  Unsocialism  carried  as  near 
to  its  logical  completeness  as  any  sane  man  dare  carry  it." 
The  Communist  Anarchism  of  Kropotkin,  Shaw  also  opposes 
because  of  his  own  lack  of  faith  in  humanity  at  large,  in  the 
present  state  of  development  of  the  social  conscience.  If  bread 
were  communized,  the  common  bread  store  obviously  would  be- 
come bankrupt  unless  every  consumer  of  the  bread  contributed 
to  its  support  as  much  labour  as  the  bread  he  consumed  cost 
to  produce.  Were  the  consumer  to  refuse  thus  to  contribute, 
there  would  be  two  ways  to  compel  him :  physical  force  and  the 
moral  force  of  public  opinion.  If  physical  force  is  resorted  to, 
then  the  Anarchist  ideal  remains  unattained.  If  moral  force, 
what  will  be  the  event  ?  The  answer  reveals  Shaw  as  a  confirmed 
sceptic  in  regard  to  the  value  of  public  opinion  as  a  moral 
agent.  "  It  is  useless,"  he  avers,  "  to  think  of  man  as  a  fallen 
angel.  If  the  fallacies  of  absolute  morality  are  to  be  admitted 
into  the  discussion  at  all,  he  must  be  considered  rather  as  an 
obstinate  and  selfish  devil  who  is  being  slowly  forced  by  the  iron 
tyranny  of  Nature  to  recognize  that  in  disregarding  his  neigh- 
bours' happiness,  he  is  taking  the  surest  way  to  sacrifice  his 
own."  Under  Anarchistic  Communism,  public  opinion  would  no 
doubt  operate  as  powerfully  as  now.  But,  in  Shaw's  opinion, 
public  opinion  cannot  for  a  moment  be  relied  upon  as  a  force 
which  operates  uniformly  as  a  compulsion  upon  men  to  act 
morally.  Keen,  incisive,  pitiless,  his  words  descriptive  of  public 
opinion  show  how  little  he  is  tinged  with  the  poetry,  the 
passion,  and  the  religion  which  are  the  very  life  blood  of 
Socialism. 

170 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

"  Its  operation  is  for  all  practical  purposes  quite  arbi- 
trary, and  is  as  often  immoral  as  moral.  It  is  just  as 
hostile  to  the  reformer  as  to  the  criminal.  It  hangs  Anar- 
chists and  worships  Nitrate  Kings.  It  insists  on  a  man 
wearing  a  tall  hat  and  going  to  church,  on  his  marrying 
the  woman  he  lives  with,  and  on  his  pretending  to  believe 
whatever  the  rest  pretend  to  believe.  .  .  .  But  there  is 
no  sincere  public  opinion  that  a  man  should  work  for  his 
daily  bread  if  he  can  get  it  for  nothing.  Indeed,  it  is  just 
the  other  way ;  public  opinion  has  been  educated  to  regard 
the  performance  of  daily  manual  labour  as  the  lot  of  the 
despised  classes.  The  common  aspiration  is  to  acquire 
property  and  leave  off  working.  Even  members  of  the  pro- 
fessions rank  below  the  independent  gentry,  so-called  be- 
cause they  are  independent  of  their  own  labour.  These 
prejudices  are  not  confined  to  the  middle  and  upper  classes : 
they  are  rampant  also  among  the  workers.  .  .  .  One  is 
almost  tempted  in  this  country  to  declare  that  the  poorer 
the  man  the  greater  the  snob,  until  you  get  down  to  those 
who  are  so  oppressed  that  they  have  not  enough  self-respect 
even  for  snobbery,  and  thus  are  able  to  pluck  out  of  the 
heart  of  their  misery  a  certain  irresponsibility  which  it 
would  be  a  mockery  to  describe  as  genuine  frankness  and 
freedom.  The  moment  you  rise  into  the  higher  atmosphere 
of  a  pound  a  week,  you  find  that  envy,  ostentation,  tedious 
and  insincere  ceremony,  love  of  petty  titles,  precedence  and 
dignities,  and  all  the  detestable  fruits  of  inequality  of  con- 
dition, flourish  as  rankly  among  those  who  lose  as  among 
those  who  gain  by  it.  In  fact,  the  notion  that  poverty 
favours  virtue  was  clearly  invented  to  persuade  the  poor 
that  what  they  lost  in  this  world  they  would  gain  in  the 
next."  * 

When  Shaw  attended  the  International  Socialist  Congresses 
in  Zurich  and  in  London,  he  reported  them  in  the  Star  as  un- 

*  Fabian  Tract,  No.  45:  The  Impossibilities  of  Anarchism,  a  paper  by 
Shaw,  written  in  1888,  read  to  the  Fabian  Society  on  October  16th,  1891, 
and  published  by  the  Fabian  Society,  July,  1893. 

171 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

sparingly  as  he  would  have  reported  a  sitting  of  Parliament. 
The  Socialists,  amazed  and  indignant  at  their  first  taste  of  real 
criticism,  concluded  that  Shaw  was  going  over  to  the  enemy. 
This  Fabian  policy  of  unsparing  criticism,  inaugurated  and 
carried  out  ruthlessly  by  Shaw,  ended  in  freeing  the  Fabians,  in 
great  measure,  from  the  illusions  of  Socialism,  and  in  imparting 
to  their  Society  its  rigidly  constitutional  character.  An  incident, 
which  Mr.  Shaw  once  described  in  a  letter  to  me,  gives  one  some 
insight  into  the  causes  of  his  reaction  against  the  German 
Socialists'  policy  of  playing  to  the  galleries  by  spouting  revo- 
lutionary rant  and  hinting  catastrophically  of  impending 
revolutions. 

"  At  the  Zurich  Congress  I  first  became  acquainted  with 
the  leaders  of  the  movement  on  the  Continent.  Chief 
among  them  was  the  German  leader  Liebknecht,  a  '48  vet- 
eran who,  having  become  completely  parliamentarized,  still 
thought  it  necessary  to  dupe  his  younger  followers  with 
the  rhetoric  of  the  barricade.  After  a  division  in  which 
an  attempt  to  secure  unanimity  by  the  primitive  method 
of  presenting  the  resolution  before  the  Congress  to  the 
delegates  of  the  different  nations  in  their  various  languages 
in  several  versions  adapted  to  their  views,  so  that  whilst 
they  believed  they  were  all  saying  '  Yes '  to  the  same 
proposition,  the  wording  was  really  very  different  in  the 
different  translations,  and  sometimes  highly  contradictory, 
it  turned  out  that  the  stupidity  of  the  English  section  had 
baffled  the  cleverness  of  the  German-Swiss  bureau,  because 
the  English  voted  '  No  '  when  they  meant  '  Yes,'  and  upset 
the  apple-cart.  Happening  to  be  close  to  Liebknecht  on 
the  platform  at  the  luncheon  adjournment,  I  said  a  few 
words  to  him  in  explanation  of  the  apparently  senseless 
action  of  the  English.  He  looked  wearily  round  at  me; 
saw  a  comparatively  young  Socialist  whom  he  did  not 
know ;  and  immediately  treated  me  to  a  long  assurance  that 
the  German  Social  Democrats  did  not  shrink  from  a  con- 
flict with  the  police  on  Labour  Day  (the  1st  of  May); 
that  they  were  as  ready  as  ever,  etc.,  etc.,  etc.,  etc.,  etc. 

172 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

I  turned  away  as  soon  and  as  shortly  as  I  could  without 
being  rude;  and  from  that  time  I  discounted  the  German 
leaders  as  being  forty  years  out  of  date,  and  totally  negli- 
gible except  as  very  ordinary  republican  Radicals  with  a 
Socialist  formula  which  was  simply  a  convenient  excuse  for 
doing  nothing  new. 

"  When  the  German  leaders  visited  London  in  the 
eighties  they  treated  the  Fabian  Society  as  a  foolish  joke. 
Later  on  they  found  their  error ;  and  Liebknecht  was  enter- 
tained at  a  great  Fabian  meeting;  but  to  this  day  the 
German  Socialist  press  does  not  dare  to  publish  the  very 
articles  it  asks  me  to  write,  because  of  my  ruthless  criticism 
of  Bebel,  Singer,  and  the  old  tradition  of  the  c  old  gang ' 
generally.  My  heresy  as  to  Marx  is,  of  course,  another 
horror  to  the  Germans  who  got  their  ideas  of  political 
economy  in  the  '48-'71  period." 

After  1875,  let  us  recall,  the  old  pressure  and  discontent  of 
the  eighteen-thirties  descended  upon  England  with  renewed 
force.  In  1881,  "  as  if  Chartism  and  Fergus  O'Connor  had 
risen  from  the  dead,"  the  Democratic  Federation,  with  H.  M. 
Hyndman  at  its  head,  inaugurated  the  revival  of  Socialist  or- 
ganization in  England.  Like  those  other  haters  of  the  capitalist 
system — the  capitalists  Ruskin,  Morris,  Tolstoy,  Marx  and 
Lassalle — Hyndman  "  had  had  his  turn  at  the  tall  hat  and  was 
tired  of  it."  Shortly  after  the  formation  of  the  Democratic 
Federation,  the  Fabian  Society,  a  revolting  sect  from  the  Fel- 
lowship of  the  New  Life,  founded  by  Professor  Thomas  David- 
son, came  into  being.  Hyndman  and  his  Marxists,  Kropotkin 
and  his  Anarchists,  did  not  realize,  with  Shaw,  that  the  pro- 
letariat, instead  of  being  the  revolutionary,  is  in  reality  the 
conservative  element  of  society.  They  refused  to  accept  this 
situation,  not  realizing  that  they  were  confronted  by  a  condi- 
tion, not  a  theory.  "  They  persisted  in  believing  that  the 
proletariat  was  an  irresistible  mass  of  Felix  Pyats  and  Ouidas." 
On  the  point  of  joining  the  Democratic  Federation,  Shaw  de- 
cided to  join  the  Fabian  Society  instead.  He  did  accept  the 
situation,  helped,  perhaps,  as  he  once  said,  by  his  inherited 

173 


/ 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

instinct  for  anti-climax.  "  I  threw  Hyndman  over,  and  got  to 
work  with  Sidney  Webb  and  the  rest  to  place  Socialism  on  a 
respectable  bourgeois  footing ;  hence  Fabianism.  Burns  did  the 
same  thing  in  Battersea  by  organizing  the  working  classes  there 
on  a  genuine  self-respecting  working-class  basis,  instead  of  on 
the  old  romantic  middle-class  assumptions.  Hyndman  wasted 
years  in  vain  denunciation  of  the  Fabian  Society  and  of  Burns ; 
and  though  facts  became  too  strong  for  him  at  last,  he  is  still 
at  heart  the  revolted  bourgeois."  Prior  to  the  year  1886,  there 
had  been  no  formal  crystallization  of  the  Fabian  Society  into  a 
strictly  economic  association,  avowedly  opportunist  in  its  po- 
litical policy ;  after  September  17th  of  that  year  the  thin  edge 
of  the  wedge  went  in.  The  Manifesto  of  the  Fabian  Parlia- 
mentary League  contains  the  nucleus  of  the  Fabian  policy  of 
to-day.*  The  Fabian  Society  was  a  dead  letter  until  Shaw, 
Webb,  Olivier  and  Wallas  joined  it;  from  that  moment,  it  be- 
came a  force  to  be  reckoned  with  in  English  life.  Almost  from 
the  very  first,  as  Mr.  Sidney  Webb  once  wrote  me,  the  Society 
took  the  colour  of  Shaw's  mordantly  critical  temperament,  and 
bore  the  stamp  of  his  personality.  The  promise  of  the  Fabians 
lay  in  their  open-mindedness,  their  diligence  in  the  study  of 
advanced  economics,  and  their  resolute  refusal  of  adherence  to 
any  formula,  however  dear  to  Socialist  enthusiasts,  which  did 
not  commend  itself  unreservedly  to  their  intelligence.  By  1885, 
it  had  only  forty  members ;  and  in  1886,  it  was  still  unable  to 
bring  its  roll  of  members  to  a  hundred  names.  In  1900,  it 
boasted  a  membership  of  eight  hundred,  and  at  present  about 
twenty-six  hundred  names  are  found  upon  its  rolls. t  It  is 
neither  possible  nor  advisable  for  me  to  record  the  history  of 
the  Fabian  Society — that  may  be  found  in  the  numerous  pub- 
lications of  the  Society.  But  I  cannot  refrain  from  stating  that 
the  membership  increased  by  forty-three  per  cent,  in  the  year 
1906-7,  that  this  was  a  year  of  unprecedented  activity;  and 


*  Compare  the  former  chapter ;  complete  details  are  to  be  f ound  in 
Fabian  Tract  No.  41,  pages   12-15. 

fin  the  twenty-seventh  Annual  Report  on  the  work  of  the  Fabian  So- 
ciety (for  the  year  ended  March  31st,  1910),  the  membership  is  given 
as  2,627. 

in 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

that  the  Society  has  recently  been  greatly  strengthened  by  the 
accession  of  many  well-known  men  in  English  public  life.  There 
were  then  eight  Fabians  in  the  London  County  Council ;  and  in 
Parliament,  Labour  and  Socialism  have  in  the  last  five  years 
been  better  represented,  I  believe,  than  ever  before  in  the  history 
of  that  body.  I  have  recently  talked  at  length  with  many  of  the 
ablest  Socialists  in  England.  The  remarkable  growth  of  the 
Fabian  Society  and  the  Socialist  representation  in  English  lit- 
erature, I  was  told  again  and  again,  is  not  due  to  any  sudden 
and  untrustworthy  inflation  of  Socialist  values,  but  is  largely 
due  to  the  fact  that  Bernard  Shaw,  Sidney  Webb,  Hubert  Bland, 
and  their  coterie  have  been  planting  the  seeds  for  twenty  years. 
Such  ideas  as  are  embodied  in  Mr.  Lloyd  George's  budget  and 
the  Old  Age  Pension  Bill  are  unmistakable  marks  of  that  gradual 
Socialist  leavening  of  English  political  thought  upon  which  the 
Fabians  have  been  engaged  ever  since  1884.  "  The  recent 
steady  influx  into  the  Fabian  Society,"  Mr.  Bland  said  to  me 
energetically,  "  is  a  clear  proof  to  my  mind  that  the  ideas  which 
have  been  lurking  in  the  air  for  a  long,  long  time  are  at  last 
taking  definite  shape  simultaneously  in  the  minds  of  a  great 
many  people.  Such  men  as  Bernard  Shaw  have  brought  this 
thing  to  pass."  * 

During  the  years  from  1887  to  1889,  the  years  we  are  espe- 
cially concerned  with  at  present,  compensation  for  its  paucity 
of  numbers  was  found  not  only  in  the  intellectual  capacity,  but 
also  in  the  economic  inquisitiveness  and  acquisitiveness  of  the 

*  Worthy  of  record  in  connection  with  the  new  policy  of  the  Fabian 
Society,  although  discussion  is  outside  the  scope  of  this  work,  is  the  move- 
ment inaugurated  by  Mr.  Holbrook  Jackson  and  Mr.  A.  R.  Orage,  after- 
wards joint-editors  of  the  London  Socialist  organ,  The  New  Age,  in  the 
foundation  of  the  Leeds  Art  Club  in  1905.  "  The  object  of  the  Leeds  Art 
Club,"  their  syllabus  read,  "  is  to  affirm  the  mutual  dependence  of  art  and 
ideas."  This  movement,  supported  by  a  group  of  able  lecturers,  proved 
so  successful  and  so  stimulating  as  to  eventuate  in  the  formation  of  the 
Fabian  Art  Group  (Bernard  Shaw  presiding  over  the  initial  meeting),  the 
declared  object  of  which  is  "to  interpret  the  relation  of  Art  and  Philosophy 
to  Socialism."  Admirable  pamphlets  and  brochures  have  been  published 
under  its  auspices;  and  its  meetings,  and  the  Fabian  Summer  School  in 
Wales,  have  been  addressed  by  many  of  the  most  brilliant  and  advanced 
thinkers  in  England.  ♦ 

175 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

leaders  in  the  Fabian  Society.     This  is  best  revealed  in  Shaw's 
sketch  of  this  period : 

"  By  far  our  most  important  work  at  this  period  was  our 
renewal  of  that  historic  and  economic  equipment  of  So- 
cial-Democracy of  which  Ferdinand  Lassalle  boasted,  and 
which  has  been  getting  rustier  and  more  obsolete  ever  since 
his  time  and  that  of  his  contemporary,  Karl  Marx.  .  .  . 
In  1885  we  used  to  prate  about  Marx's  theory  of  value  and 
Lassalle's  Iron  Law  of  Wages  as  if  it  were  still  1870.  In 
spite  of  Henry  George,  no  Socialist  seemed  to  have  any 
working  knowledge  of  the  theory  of  economic  rent:  its 
application  to  skilled  labour  was  so  unheard  of  that  the 
expression  '  rent  of  ability '  was  received  with  laughter 
when  the  Fabians  first  introduced  it  into  their  lectures  and 
discussions ;  and  as  for  the  modern  theory  of  value,  it  was 
scouted  as  a  blasphemy  against  Marx.  .  .  .  As  to  his- 
tory, we  had  a  convenient  stock  of  imposing  generaliza- 
tions about  the  evolution  from  slavery  to  serfdom  and 
from  serfdom  to  free  wage  labour.  We  drew  our  pictures 
of  society  with  one  broad  line  dividing  the  bourgeoisie 
from  the  proletariat,  and  declared  that  there  were  only 
two  classes  really  in  the  country.  We  gave  lightning 
sketches  of  the  development  of  the  mediaeval  craftsman 
into  the  manufacturer  and  finally  into  the  factory  hand. 
We  denounced  Malthusianism  quite  as  crudely  as  the 
Malthusians  advocated  it,  which  is  saying  a  great  deal; 
and  we  raged  against  emigration,  national  insurance,  co- 
operation, trade-unionism,  old-fashioned  Radicalism,  and 
everything  else  that  was  not  Socialism;  and  that,  too, 
without  knowing  at  all  clearly  what  we  meant  by  Social- 
ism. The  mischief  was,  not  that  our  generalizations  were 
unsound,  but  that  we  had  no  detailed  knowledge  of  the 
content  of  them:  we  had  borrowed  them  ready-made  as 
articles  of  faith;  and  when  opponents  like  Charles  Brad- 
laugh  asked  us  for  details  we  sneered  at  the  demand  with- 
out being  in  the  least  able  to  comply  with  it.  The  real 
reason  why  Anarchist  and  Socialist  worked  then  shoulder 

176 


J 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

to  shoulder  as  comrades  and  brothers  was  that  neither  one 
nor  the  other  had  any  definite  idea  of  what  he  wanted,  or 
how  it  was  to  be  got.  All  this  is  true  to  this  day  of  the 
raw  recruits  of  the  movement,  and  of  some  older  hands 
who  may  be  absolved  on  the  ground  of  invincible  igno- 
rance ;  but  it  is  no  longer  true  of  the  leaders  of  the  move- 
ment in  general.  In  1887  even  the  British  Association  burst 
out  laughing  as  one  man  when  an  elderly  representative  of 
Philosophic  Radicalism,  with  the  air  of  one  who  was  utter- 
ing the  safest  of  platitudes,  accused  us  of  ignorance  of 
political  economy;  and  now  not  even  a  Philosophical  Rad- 
ical is  to  be  found  to  make  himself  ridiculous  in  this  way. 
The  exemplary  eye-opening  of  Mr.  Leonard  Courtney  by 
Mr.  Sidney  Webb  lately  in  the  leading  English  economic 
review  surprised  nobody,  except  perhaps  Mr.  Courtney 
himself.  The  cotton  lords  of  the  north  would  never  dream 
to-day  of  engaging  an  economist  to  confute  us  with 
learned  pamphlets  as  their  predecessors  engaged  Nassau 
Senior  in  the  days  of  the  Ten  Hours'  Bill,  because  they 
know  that  we  should  be  only  too  glad  to  advertise  our 
Eight  Hours'  Bill  by  flattening  out  any  such  champion. 
From  1887  to  1889  we  were  the  recognized  bullies  and 
swashbucklers  of  advanced  economics."  * 

Not  without  reason  have  the  Fabians  been  called  the  Jesuits 
of  the  Socialist  evangel  in  England.  The  "  waiting  "  of  the 
Fabian  motto  is  synonymous,  not  with  inaction,  but  with  un- 
flagging energy.f  The  Fabians  eschewed  pleasures  and  recre- 
ations of  every  kind  in  favour  of  public  speaking  and  public 
instruction;  their  policy  has  always  been  one  of  education  and 
permeation.  In  the  year  ending  April,  1889,  to  take  a  single 
example,  the  number  of  lectures  delivered  by  members  of  the 
Fabian  Society  alone  was  upwards  of  seven  hundred.     In  addi- 

*  Fabian  Tract  No.  41,  pages  15-16;  date,  1892. 

•{■The  Fabian  motto,  suggested  by  Mr.  Frank  Podmore,  runs:  "For  the 
right  moment  you  must  wait,  as  Fabius  did  most  patiently  when  warring 
against  Hannibal,  though  many  censured  his  delays;  but  when  the  time 
comes  you  must  strike  hard,  as  Fabius  did,  or  your  waiting  will  be  in  vain 
and  fruitless." 

177 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

tion  to  writing  or  editing  many  publications  of  the  Fabian 
Society,  Shaw  has  delivered,  in  the  last  twenty-odd  years,  con- 
siderably more  than  a  thousand  public  lectures  and  addresses. 
Until  the  close  of  1889,  the  Fabians  had  confined  their  propa- 
gandist campaign  to  three  directions:  publication  of  mani- 
festos and  pamphlets ;  delivery  of  public  addresses  and  holding 
of  conferences,  and  exciting  efforts  towards  the  permeation  of 
the  Liberal  party.  In  December,  1889,  the  Fabian  Society  pub- 
lished the  well-known  book,  Fabian  Essays  in  Socialism,  edited 
by  Shaw,  and  containing,  in  addition  to  two  essays  of  his  own, 
essays  by  Sidney  Olivier,  William  Clarke,  Hubert  Bland,  Sidney 
Webb,  Annie  Besant  and  Graham  Wallas.*  The  authors,  con- 
stituting the  Executive  Council  of  the  Fabian  Society,  made 
no  claim  to  be  more  than  communicative  learners:  the  book 
was  the  outcome  of  their  realization  of  the  lack  of  anything 
like  authoritative,  and  at  the  same  time  popular,  presentations 
of  the  political,  economic,  and  moral  aspects  of  contemporary 
Socialism. 

In  general,  it  may  be  said  that  the  Fabians,  while  strenuously 
avowing  themselves  strict  evolutionists,  are  in  reality  highly 
revolutionary.  The  boast  of  the  Fabian  Society  is  freedom 
from  the  illusions  and  millennial  aspirations  of  the  great  mass 
of  Socialists.  It  is  a  society  of  irreverence  and  scientific 
iconoclasm,  bowing  to  the  fetishism  neither  of  George  nor  of 
Marx.  Towards  Marx  and  Lassalle,  some  of  whose  views  must 
now  be  discarded  as  erroneous  or  obsolete,  the  Fabian  Society 
insists  on  the  necessity  of  maintaining  as  critical  an  attitude 
as  these  eminent  Socialists  themselves  maintained  towards  their 
predecessors  St.  Simon  and  Robert  Owen.  In  origin  anarchistic 
and  revolutionary  as  could  be  desired,  in  spirit  the  Fabians 
remain  anarchistic  and  revolutionary.  In  principle  avowedly 
orderly  and  constitutional,  in  policy  frankly  opportunist,  in 
practice  strictly  scientific  and  economic,  the  Fabians  may  be 
called  the  realists  of  the  Socialist  movement.  They  have  ruth- 
lessly   snatched   the  masks    from   the   faces    of   the   Utopian 

*This  book  has  now  gone  into  its  seventieth  thousand,  and  has  been  re- 
published in  both  Germany  and  America.  It  is  regarded  to-day  as  the 
standard  text  in  English  for  Socialist  lecturers  and  propagandists. 

178 


EDITED   BY    G.  BERNARD    SHAW. 

PRICE   ONE   SHILLING. 


Essays  by  G.  Bernard  Shaw,  Sydney  Olivier,  Wm.  Clarke. 
Hubert  Bland,  Sidney  Webb,  Annie  Besant,  C.  Waljas. 

Facsimile  or  Cover  Design  of  Fabian  Essays   (1890). 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

dreamers  and  romancers.*  While  the  rank  and  file  of  the 
"  S.  D.  F."  have  been  the  very  good  friends  of  the  Fabians, 
the  radical  differences  in  their  respective  policies  have  precluded 
all  possibility  of  amalgamatipn.  As  succinctly  stated  by  Shaw : 
"  The  Fabian  Society  is  a  society  for  helping  to  bring  about 
the  socialization  of  the  industrial  resources  of  the  country. 
The  Social-Democratic  Federation  is  a  society  for  enlisting  the 
whole  proletariat  of  the  country  in  its  own  ranks  and  itself 
socializing  the  national  industry."  The  policy  of  the  one  is 
fundamentally  opportunist;  of  the  other,  implacably  sectarian. 
The  Federation  counts  no  man  a  Socialist  until  he  has  joined  it, 
and  supports  no  man  who  is  not  a  member;  the  Fabians  advise 
concentration  of  strength  to  elect  that  candidate,  be  he  Socialist 
or  not,  who  gives  the  greatest  promise  of  advancing,  in  greater 
or  less  degree,  the  general  cause  of  Socialism.  The  Federation 
persistently  claims  to  be  the  only  genuine  representative  of 
working-class  interests  in  England;  the  Fabians  have  never 
advanced  the  smallest  pretensions  in  that  direction.  Its  policy 
finds  ample  justification  in  the  recent  history  of  Continental 
Socialism.  The  tactics  of  the  German  Socialist  Party,  in  the 
last  few  years,  have  been  "  Fabianized  "  by  sheer  force  of  cir- 
cumstances ;  to-day,  this  party  is,  in  great  measure,  both  oppor- 
tunist and  constitutional,  the  two  essential  features  of  Fabian 
policy.  Sharpened  in  wit  by  rigorous  persecution,  Liebknecht 
and  his  successor  Bebel  have  learned  the  art  of  politics  through 
experience  and  exigency.  In  contemporary  France  is  witnessed 
the  signal  triumph  of  Fabian  Socialism.  The  policy  of  Jaures, 
although  under  the  frown  of  the  "  International,"  will  be  con- 
tinued in  France;  and  Guesde,  despite  his  barren  victory  at 
the  International  Socialist  Congress  at  Amsterdam  in  1904,  will 
remain  only  vox  clamantis  in  deserto.  The  history  of  the 
Fabian  Society,  which  is  the  history  of  Shaw,  in  the  last  twenty 
years,  bears  evidence  that  the  Fabians  have  stood  in  the  very 
forefront    of   the   battle    for    collectivist   measures,   municipal 

*  Compare  Fabian  Tract  No.  70:  Report  on  Fabian  Policy,  the  bomb- 
shell thrown  by  the  Fabian  Society  into  the  International  Socialist  Work- 
ers' and  Trade  Union  Congress,  1896. 

180 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

reforms,  civic  virtue  and  social  progress.     As  Shaw  wrote  in 
1900: 

"  In  1885  we  agreed  to  give  up  the  delightful  ease  of 
revolutionary  heroics  and  take  to  the  hard  work  of  practical 
reform  on  ordinary  parliamentary  lines.  In  1889  we  pub- 
lished *  Fabian  Essays  '  without  a  word  in  them  about  the 
value  theory  of  Marx.  In  1893  we  made  the  first  real 
attack  made  by  Socialists  on  Liberalism,  on  which  occasion 
the  Social-Democratic  Federation  promptly  joined  in  the 
Liberal  outcry  against  us.  In  1896  we  affirmed  that  the 
object  of  Socialism  was  not  to  destroy  private  enterprise, 
but  only  to  make  the  livelihood  of  the  people  independent 
of  it  by  socializing  the  common  industries  of  life,  and 
driving  private  enterprise  into  its  proper  sphere  of  art, 
invention  and  new  departures.  This  year  we  have  led  the 
way  in  getting  rid  of  the  traditional  association  of  our 
movement  with  that  romantic  nationalism  which  is  to  the 
Pole  and  the  Irishman  what  Jingoism  is  to  the  English- 
man. ...  In  short,  the  whole  history  of  Socialism  dur- 
ing the  past  fifteen  years  in  England,  France,  Germany, 
Belgium,  Austria  and  America,  has  been  its  disentangle- 
ment from  the  Liberal  tradition  stamped  on  Marx,  Engels 
and  Liebknecht  in  1848,  and  its  emergence  in  a  character- 
istic and  original  form  of  its  own,  modified  by  national 
character,  and,  in  England,  calling  itself  Fabianism  when 
it  is  self-conscious  enough  to  call  itself  anything  at  all."  * 

Strangely  enough,  in  view  of  all  the  facts,  it  is  customary 
to  regard  Shaw  as  a  purely  destructive  and  negative  spirit. 
The  truth  is  that  Shaw  stands  for  certain  definite  beliefs, 
certain  undoubted  principles.  His  is  the  belief  of  the  un- 
believer, the  principle  of  the  unprincipled,  the  faith  of  the 
sceptic. 

Not  less  important  than  his  destructive  achievements  has 
been  his  constructive  work  in  practical  affairs  as  Vestryman  and 

*  Socialism  and  Republicanism,  in  the  Saturday  Review,  November  17th, 
1900. 

181 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Borough  Councillor.  Prior  to  1895,  roughly  speaking,  the 
vestries  were  ignorantly  boasted  of  as  the  truest  products  of 
a  representative  democratic  government.  "  The  truth  of  the 
matter,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  remarked  to  me,  "  is  that  the  vestry, 
as  it  was  actually  elected  in  those  days — a  few  people  getting 
together  when  nobody  knew  of  it  and  at  some  place  of  which 
the  public  was  not  notified,  and  electing  themselves  members — 
could  scarcely  be  called  a  representative  democratic  body.  We 
Socialists  finally  began  to  realize  that  the  way  to  get  at  the 
vestry  was  to  put  a  programme  into  their  hands.  So  we  sent 
them  all  a  pamphlet,  requesting  replies — a  pamphlet  entitled, 
'  Questions  for  Vestrymen,'  or  something  of  the  sort.  The  ves- 
trymen were  thus  forced  to  the  wall  and  driven  to  decide  upon 
issues.  They  actually  began  to  make  up  their  minds  on  many 
subjects  of  which  hitherto  they  had  had  no  conception.  Slowly 
the  vestries,  under  this  discipline,  began  to  take  on  a  truly  repre- 
sentative character.  The  personnel  of  the  vestry  was  now  per- 
manently altered  for  the  better.  Men  were  elected  who  not  only 
took  an  interest  in  municipal  affairs,  but  likewise  were  willing 
to  do  any  amount  of  hard  work.  I  was  c  co-opted ' — i.e., 
chosen  by  the  committee,  by  agreement  with  the  opposite 
party,  obviously  beaten  if  a  vote  were  taken.  So  that  I 
was  fortunate  enough  to  escape  the  terrors  of  a  popular 
election." 

It  is  quite  beyond  the  scope  of  this  book  to  enter  into  the 
details  of  Shaw's  work  as  Vestryman,  afterwards  Borough  Coun- 
cillor. Suffice  it  to  say,  that  he  was  chosen  in  1897,  entered 
at  once  upon  the  performance  of  his  duties,  and  prosecuted 
them  for  several  terms  with  great  zeal  and  tireless  energy.  His 
various  letters  to  the  Press  during  that  period,  and  occasional 
reminiscences,  show  that  he  was  always  outspoken  and  vehe- 
ment in  behalf  of  all  reforms  which  tended  to  the  betterment  of 
the  poorer  classes,  equalization  of  public  privileges  of  men  and 
women,  better  sanitary  conditions,  and  the  municipalization  of 
such  industries  as  promise  to  give  the  people  at  large  better 
service  and  greater  value  for  their  money  than  privately 
operated  concerns.  The  most  tangible  result  of  his  work  as 
Vestryman   and   Borough   Councillor   is   his    book,   Municipal 

182 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

Trading,  which  he  once  told  me  he  regarded  as  one  of  the  best 
and  most  useful  things  he  had  ever  done.* 

At  the  expiration  of  his  career  as  Borough  Councillor,  he 
stood  as  the  candidate  for  the  Borough  of  St.  Pancras  in  the 
London  County  Council — the  seat  afterwards  occupied  by  the 
well-known  actor,  Mr.  George  Alexander.  "  I  was  beaten,"  Mr. 
Shaw  recently  told  me,  "  because  I  alienated  the  Nonconformist 
element  by  favouring  the  improvement  of  the  Church  schools. 
I  was  convinced  that  such  improvement  would  lead  to  the  bet- 
terment of  the  education  of  the  children.  The  Nonconformists 
were  enraged  beyond  measure  by  the  proposal,  looking  with  the 
utmost  horror  upon  any  measure  which  tended  to  strengthen 
the  Church.  I  remember  one  rabid  Nonconformist  coming  to  me 
one  day,  almost  foaming  at  the  mouth,  and  protesting  with 
violent  indignation  that  he  would  not  pay  a  single  cent  towards 
the  maintenance  of  the  schools  of  the  Established  Church. 
'  Why,  my  dear  fellow,'  I  replied,  '  don't  you  know  that  you 
pay  taxes  now  for  the  support  of  the  Roman  Catholic  Church 
in  the  Island  of  Malta  ?  '  Although  this  staggered  the  irate 
Nonconformist  for  the  moment,  it  did  not  reconcile  his  element 
to  the  extension  of  the  principle  to  London.  My  contention 
was  that  under  the  conditions  prevailing  at  the  time,  the  children 
were  poorly  taught  and  poorly  housed,  the  schools  badly  venti- 
lated, and  the  conditions  generally  unsatisfactory.  '  Improve  all 
the  conditions,'  I  said ; '  appoint  your  own  inspectors,  and  in  the 
course  of  time  you  will  control  the  situation.  Pay  the  piper 
and  you  can  call  the  tune.'  But  I  could  not  override  the  tre- 
mendous prejudice  against  the  Church,  and  I  was  badly  beaten." 
One  of  Shaw's  intimate  friends  told  me  not  long  ago  that  what 
lost  the  seat  in  the  L.  C.  C.  for  Shaw  was  his  intrepid  assertion, 
repeated  throughout  the  campaign,  that  he  and  Voltaire  were 
the  only  two  truly  religious  people  who  had  ever  lived !    Shaw's 

*  For  highly  appreciative  summaries  of  The  Common  Sense  of  Municipal 
Trading  (Archibald  Constable  and  Co.),  and  of  Shaw's  article,  Socialism 
for  Millionaires  (first  published  in  the  Contemporary  Review  of  February, 
1896,  and  afterwards,  in  1901,  as  Fabian  Tract  No.  107),  compare  Mr.  Hoi- 
brook  Jackson's  monograph,  Bernard  Shaw,  pages  114-131. 

183 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

own  account  of  this,  when  I  taxed  him  with  it,  was  that  he 
had  often  pointed  out  that  the  religious  opinions  of  the  Free 
Churches  (the  Nonconformist  sects)  in  England  to-day  were 
exactly  those  of  Voltaire,  and  that  what  I  had  been  told  was 
quite  as  near  his  meaning  as  most  people  contrived  to  get  with- 
out reading  him.  And  only  the  other  day  a  well-known  politician 
and  a  friend  of  Shaw's  made  the  remark  to  me  that  Shaw 
was  an  "  impossible  political  candidate,"  too  rash  and  indi- 
vidualistic in  his  assertions  to  avoid  alienating  many  people — 
even  some  of  the  very  men  who  under  ordinary  circumstances 
might  confidently  be  relied  upon  to  support  a  progressive  and 
energetic  reformer. 

And  yet  it  is  noteworthy  that  as  far  back  as  the  year  1889 
Shaw  was  asked  to  stand  as  a  Member  of  Parliament.  Below 
is  given  the  text  of  a  letter,  from  Shaw,  at  29,  Fitzroy  Square, 
W.,  London,  dated  March  23rd,  1889,  to  Mr.  W.  Sanders,  then 
Secretary  of  the  Election  Committee  of  the  Battersea  branch 
of  the  S.  D.  F.,  now  a  prominent  Fabian  and  recently  member 
of  the  London  County  Council.  This  letter,  a  copy  of  which 
was  most  kindly  given  me  by  Mr.  Sanders,  was  sent  in  reply  to 
a  letter  from  him  to  Mr.  Shaw  asking  him  to  allow  his  name 
to  be  put  forward  as  a  candidate  for  the  parliamentary  repre- 
sentation of  Battersea  subsequent  to  a  conference  between  the 
Battersea  L.  and  R.  Association  and  the  Battersea  branch  of 
the  S.  D.  F.  Mr.  Shaw  was  mistaken  in  addressing  Mr.  Sanders 
as  the  Secretary  of  the  Election  Committee  of  the  Battersea 
L.  and  R.  Association. 

"  Dear  Sir, — 

"  I  wish  it  were  possible  for  me  to  thank  the  Bat- 
tersea L.  and  R.  Association  for  their  invitation,  and  accept 
it  without  further  words.  But  there  is  the  old  difficulty 
which  makes  genuine  democracy  impossible  at  present — I 
mean  the  money  difficulty.  For  the  last  year  I  have  had 
to  neglect  my  professional  duties  so  much,  and  to  be  so 
outrageously  unpunctual  and  uncertain  in  the  execution 
of  work  entrusted  to  me  by  employers  of  literary  labour, 

184 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

that  my  pecuniary  position  is  worse  than  it  was;  and  I 
am  at  present  almost  wholly  dependent  on  critical  work 
which  requires  my  presence  during  several  evenings  in  the 
week  at  public  performances.  Badly  as  I  do  this  at  present, 
I  could  not  do  it  at  all  if  I  had  parliamentary  duties  to 
discharge ;  and  as  to  getting  back  any  of  the  old  work  that 
could  be  done  in  the  morning,  I  rather  think  the  action 
I  should  be  bound  to  take  in  Parliament  would  lead  to 
closer  and  closer  boycotting.  As  to  the  serious  literary 
work  that  is  independent  of  editors  and  politics,  I  have 
never  succeeded  in  making  it  support  me ;  and  in  any  case 
it  is  not  compatible  with  energetic  work  in  another  direc- 
tion carried  on  simultaneously.  You  must  excuse  my 
troubling  you  with  these  details ;  but  the  Association,  con- 
sisting of  men  who  know  what  getting  a  living  means,  will 
understand  the  importance  of  them.  As  a  political  worker 
outside  Parliament  I  can  just  manage  to  pay  my  way  and 
so  keep  myself  straight  and  independent.  But  you  know, 
and  the  Association  will  know,  how  a  man  goes  to  pieces 
when  he  has  to  let  his  work  go,  and  then  to  run  into  debt, 
to  borrow  in  order  to  get  out  of  debt  by  getting  into  it 
again,  to  beg  in  order  to  pay  off  the  loans,  and  finally 
either  to  sell  himself  or  to  give  up,  beaten. 

"  If  the  constituency  wants  a  candidate,  I  see  nothing 
for  it  but  paying  him.  If  Battersea  makes  up  its  mind  to 
that,  it  can  pick  and  choose  among  men  many  of  whom 
are  stronger  than  I.  And  since  it  is  well  to  get  so  much 
good  value  for  the  money  as  can  be  had,  I  think  poor 
constituencies  (and  all  real  democratic  constituencies  are 
poor)  will  for  some  time  be  compelled  to  kill  two  birds  with 
one  stone,  and  put  the  same  man  into  both  County  Council 
and  Parliament.  This,  however,  is  a  matter  which  you 
are  sure  to  know  your  own  minds  about,  and  it  is  not  for 
me  to  meddle  in  it. 

"  Some  day,  perhaps,  I  may  be  better  able  to  take  an 
extra  duty;  for,  after  all,  I  am  not  a  bad  workman  when 
I  have  time  and  opportunity  to  show  what  I  can  do;  and 
I  need  scarcely  say  that  if  the  literary  employers  find  that 

185 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

there  is  money  to  be  made  out  of  me,  they  will  swallow  my 
opinions  fast  enough, 

"  I  am,  dear  Sir, 

"  Yours  faithfully, 

"  G.  Bernard  Shaw. 
"  Mr.  W.  Sanders." 

In  many  quarters,  even  among  his  Socialist  confreres,  Ber- 
nard Shaw  is  regarded  as  primarily  destructive  in  his  proposals. 
And  yet,  at  different  times  and  in  various  places,  he  has  con- 
structively outlined  his  programme  of  complete  Socialism.  In 
essential  agreement  with  such  Collectivists  as  Emile  Vandervelde, 
Jean  Jaures  and  August  Bebel,  Shaw  differs  from  them  only 
in  regard  to  the  successive  mutations  in  the  process  of  Socialist 
evolution.  The  gradual  extension  of  the  principle  of  the  income 
tax — e.g.,  a  "  forcible  transfer  of  rent,  interest,  and  even  rent 
of  ability  from  private  holders  to  the  State,  without  compensa- 
tion," is  the  scheme  of  capitalistic  expropriation  the  Collectivists 
have  in  mind.  By  a  gradual  process  of  development,  the  im- 
position of  gradually  increased  taxes,  the  State  will  secure  the 
means  for  investment  in  industrial  enterprises  of  all  sorts.  In- 
stead of  forcibly  extinguishing  private  enterprises,  the  State 
would  extinguish  them  by  successfully  competing  against  them. 
Thus,  as  Proudhon  said,  competition  would  kill  competition; 
in  America,  Mr.  Gay  lord  Wilshire  never  tires  of  exclaiming: 
"  Let  the  Nation  own  the  Trusts."  If,  as  Shaw  claims,  the 
highest  exceptional  talent  could  be  had,  in  the  open  market,  for 
eight  hundred  pounds,  say,  nearly  half  the  existing  wages  of 
ability  and  the  entire  profits  of  capital  would  be  diverted  from 
the  pockets  of  the  able  men  and  the  present  possessors  of  capital, 
and  would  find  its  way  into  the  pockets  of  the  State.  The  vast 
sum  thus  accruing  to  the  State  would  swell  the  existing  wages 
fund,  and  would  be  employed  in  raising  the  wages  of  the  entire 
community.  After  the  means  of  production  have  been  So- 
cialized, and  the  State  has  become  the  employer,  products  or 
riches  will  be  distributed  roughly,  "  according  to  the  labour 
done  by  each  man  in  the  collective  search  for  them."  In  his 
celebrated  tilt  with  Shaw,  Mr.  W.  H.  Mallock  attacked  the 

186 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

validity  of  the  economics  which  furnish  the  substructure  of 
Fabian  Essays*  Mr.  Mallock's  contention  resolves  itself  into 
the  assertion  that  exceptional  personal  ability,  and  not  labour, 
is  the  main  factor  in  the  production  of  wealth.  Far  from 
repudiating  this  assertion,  Shaw  embraced  it,  he  said,  in  the 
spirit  of  Mrs.  Prig:  "  Who  deniges  of  it,  Betsy?  "  We  support 
and  encourage  ability,  Shaw  contends,  in  order  that  we  may 
get  as  much  as  possible  out  of  it,  not  in  order  that  it  may 
get  as  much  as  possible  out  of  us.  Give  men  of  ability  and  their 
heirs  the  entire  product  of  their  ability,  so  that  they  shall  be 
enormously  rich  whilst  the  rest  of  us  remain  as  poor  as  if  they 
had  never  existed,  and  "  it  will  become  a  public  duty  to  kill 
them,  since  nobody  but  themselves  will  be  any  the  worse,  and 
we  shall  be  much  the  better  for  having  no  further  daily  provoca- 
tion to  the  sin  of  envy."  Accordingly,  the  business  of  Society 
is  "  to  get  the  use  of  ability  as  cheaply  as  it  can  for  the 
benefit  of  the  community,  giving  the  able  man  just  enough 
advantage  to  keep  his  ability  active  and  efficient.  From  the 
Unsocialist  point  of  view  this  is  simply  saying  that  it  is  the 
business  of  Society  to  find  out  exactly  how  far  it  can  rob  the 
able  man  of  the  product  of  his  ability  without  injuring  itself, 
which  is  precisely  true  (from  that  point  of  view),"  though 
whether  it  is  a  "  reduction  of  Socialism  to  dishonesty  or  of 
Unsocialism  to  absurdity  "  may  be  left  an  open  question.  "  If 
Mr.  Mallock  will  take  his  grand  total  of  the  earnings  of  Abil- 
ity," Shaw  asserts,  "  and  strike  off  from  it,  first,  all  rent  of 
land  and  interest  on  capital,  then  all  normal  profits,  then  all 

*  Fabian  Economics,  in  the  Fortnightly  Review,  February,  1894.  Mr. 
Mallock  purposed  to  show  how  the  defenders  of  a  broad  and  social  Con- 
servatism, as  outlined  by  himself,  "  may  be  able,  by  a  fuller  understanding 
of  it,  to  speak  to  the  intellect,  the  heart,  and  the  hopes  of  the  people  of  this 
country  (England),  like  the  voice  of  a  trumpet,  in  comparison  with  which 
the  voice  of  Socialism  will  be  merely  a  penny  whistle."  Shaw  delightfully 
termed  his  rejoinder,  On  Mr.  Mallock's  Proposed  Trumpet  Performance, 
which  brought  forth,  in  the  same  magazine,  not  one,  but  two  rejoinders 
from  Mr.  Mallock.  In  1909  an  attack  by  Mr.  Mallock  on  Mr.  Keir  Hardie 
in  the  Times  provoked  Shaw  to  a  fierce  onslaught  on  his  old  opponent,  and 
the  Fabian  Society  presently  republished  the  correspondence  and  the  old 
Fortnightly  article  under  the  title,  Socialism  and  Superior  Brains.  The 
latter,  in  a  shilling  edition,  is  also  published  by  A.  C.  Fifield,  London,  in 
the  Fabian  Socialist  Series, 

187 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

non-competitive  emoluments  attached  to  a  definite  status  in  the 
public  service,  civil  or  military,  from  royalty  downwards,  then 
all  payments  for  the  advantages  of  secondary  or  technical  edu- 
cation and  social  opportunities,  then  all  fancy  payments  made 
to  artists  and  other  professional  men  by  very  rich  commonplace 
people  competing  for  their  services,  and  then  all  exceptional 
payments  made  to  men  whose  pre-eminence  exists  only  in  the 
imaginative  ignorance  of  the  public,  the  reminder  may  with 
some  plausibility  stand  as  genuine  rent  of  ability."  And  to  Mr. 
Mallock's  assertion  that  "  men  of  ability  will  not  exert  them- 
selves to  produce  income  when  they  know  that  the  State  is  an 
organized  conspiracy  to  rob  them  of  it,"  Shaw  characteristically 
retorts,  "  Mr.  Mallock  might  as  well  deny  the  existence  of  the 
Pyramids  on  the  general  ground  that  men  will  not  build 
pyramids  when  they  know  that  Pharaoh  is  at  the  head  of  an 
organized  conspiracy  to  take  away  the  Pyramids  from  them 
as  soon  as  they  are  made." 

Shaw  holds  the  fundamentally  sound  view  that  "  as  to  the 
entire  assimilation  of  Socialism  by  the  world,  the  world  has  never 
yet  assimilated  the  whole  of  any  ism,  and  never  will."  In 
that  most  subtle  and  distinguished  of  all  his  contributions  to 
the  Socialist  literature  of  our  time,  The  Illusions  of  Socialism, 
Shaw  has  expressed  his  firm  conviction  that  it  is  not  essential 
for  the  welfare  of  the  world  to  carry  out  Socialism  in  its 
entirety.  Unfettered  by  the  dogmas  of  a  political  creed,  un- 
hampered by  the  bonds  of  a  narrow  partisanship,  Bernard 
Shaw  stands  forth  as  a  great  and  free  spirit  in  his  prophetic 
declaration  that,  long  before  it  has  penetrated  to  all  corners 
of  the  political  and  social  organization,  Socialism  will  have 
relieved  the  pressure  to  which  it  owes  its  elasticity,  and  will 
recede  before  the  next  great  social  movement,  leaving  every- 
where intact  the  best  survivals  of  individualistic  liberalism.  And 
far  from  agreeing  with  Ibsen  in  his  impossibilist  declaration  that 
the  State  must  go,  Shaw  not  only  asserts  that  we  must  put  up 
with  the  State,  but  also  expresses  no  doubt  whatsoever  that 
under  Social-Democracy  the  few  will  still  govern.  It  is  a  mark 
of  Shaw's  British  practicality  and  clear-sightedness  that  he  rec- 
ognizes in  the  State  a  practical  instrumentality  for  effecting 

188 


J 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

and  directing  social  reform.  The  State  is  indispensable  as  a 
means  for  making  possible  one  great  consummation :  the  devel- 
opment of  the  strong,  sound,  creative  personality.  The  unso- 
cial man  he  regards  as  a  "  hopelessly  private  person."  The 
opportunity  for  the  free  development  of  the  individual  he  re- 
gards as  the  fundamental  prerequisite  and  condition  for  the 
individual's  social  and  material  wellbeing.*  "  That  great  joint- 
stock  company  of  the  future,  the  Social-Democratic  State,  will 
have  its  chairman  and  directors  as  surely  as  its  ships  will  have 
captains."  But  this  admission  involves  no  endorsement,  on 
Shaw's  part,  of  the  State  as  at  present  constituted.  "  Bakou- 
nine's  comprehensive  aspiration  to  destroy  all  States  and  Estab- 
lished Churches,  with  their  religious,  political,  judicial,  financial, 
criminal,  academic,  economic  and  social  laws  and  institutions, 
seems  to  me  perfectly  justifiable  and  intelligible  from  the  point 
of  view  of  the  ordinary  '  educated  man,'  who  believes  that 
institutions  make  men  instead  of  men  making  institutions." 
The  State,  as  at  present  constituted,  Shaw  views  as  simply  a 
huge  machine  for  robbing  and  slave-driving  the  poor  by  brute 
force.  While  he  laughs  at  the  Individualism  expressed  in  Her- 
bert Spencer's  The  Coming  Slavery,  at  the  Anarchy  expressed 
in  the  word  Liberty,  and  in  those  "  silly  words  "  of  John  Hay 
on  the  title-page  of  Benjamin  Tucker's  paper,  Shaw  is,  never- 
theless, both  an  individualist  and  an  intellectual  anarchist.  The 
alleged  opposition  between  Socialism  and  Individualism,  Shaw 
has  always  strenuously  maintained,  is  false  and  question-beg- 
ging. "  The  true  issue  lies  between  Socialism  and  Unsocialism, 
and  not  between  Socialism  and  that  instinct  in  us  that  leads 
us  to  Socialism  by  its  rebellion  against  the  squalid  levelling 
down,  the  brutal  repression,  the  regimenting  and  drilling  and 
conventionalizing  of  the  great  mass  of  us  to-day,  in  order  that 
a  lucky  handful  may  bore  themselves  to  death  for  want  of 
anything  to  do,  and  be  afraid  to  walk  down  Bond  Street  with- 
out a  regulation  hat  and  coat  on."     Like  Ruskin,  Morris  and 

*  In  his  analysis  of  the  situation  in  his  native  land,  he  insisted  that  Home 
Rule  was  a  necessity  for  Ireland,  because  the  Irish  would  never  be  con- 
tent, would  never  feel  themselves  free,  until  Home  Rule  was  granted  them. 
It  was  not  a  question  of  logic,  but  a  question  of  natural  right. 

189 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Kropotkin,  Shaw  sees  the  whole  imposture  through  and  through, 
"  in  spite  of  its  familiarity,  and  of  the  illusions  created  by  its 
temporal  power,  its  riches,  its  splendour,  its  prestige,  its  in- 
tense respectability,  its  unremitting  piety,  and  its  high  moral 
pretension." 

At  bottom,  it  was  a  deeply  religious,  a  fundamentally  hu- 
manitarian motive,  which  drew  Shaw  into  Socialism.  The  birth 
of  the  social  passion  in  his  soul  finds  its  origin  in  the  individual 
desire  to  compass  the  salvation  of  his  fellow  man.  A  burning 
sense  of  social  injustice,  a  great  passion  for  social  reform,  di- 
rected his  steps.  In  his  inmost  being  he  felt  his  complicity  in 
the  social  ills  of  the  world.  He  realized  that  only  by  personally 
seeking  to  effect  the  salvation  of  society  could  he  achieve  the 
salvation  of  his  own  soul.  The  Will  to  Socialism  was  thus 
grounded  in  a  profound  individualism :  he  felt  their  organic  con- 
nection. Socialism  was  the  need  of  the  age ;  and  it  could  only 
be  achieved  through  the  freedom  and  development  of  the 
individual. 

That  other  wit  and  paradoxer,  Mr.  Gilbert  Chesterton,  told 
the  very  truth  itself  when  he  said  that  Bernard  Shaw  "  has 
done  something  that  has  never  been  done  in  the  world  before. 
He  has  become  a  revolutionist  without  becoming  a  sentimentalist. 
He  has  revolted  against  the  cant  of  authority,  and  yet  con- 
tinued in  despising  the  cant  of  revolt."  To  Shaw,  the  middle- 
class  origin  of  the  Socialist  movement  is  in  nothing  so  apparent 
as  in  the  persistent  delusions  of  Socialists  as  to  an  ideal  pro- 
letariat, forced  by  the  brutalities  of  the  capitalist  into  an  un- 
willing acquiescence  in  war,  penal  codes,  and  other  cruelties  of 
civilization.  "  They  still  see  the  social  problem,"  Shaw  wittily 
remarks,  "  not  sanely  and  objectively,  but  imaginatively,  as 
the  plot  of  a  melodrama,  with  its  villain  and  its  heroine,  its 
innocent  beginning,  troubled  middle,  and  happy  ending.  They 
are  still  the  children  and  the  romancers  of  politics."  * 

Shaw  finds  a  sort  of  sly  gratification  in  the  reflection  that  the 
world  is  becoming  so  familiar  with  the  Socialist,  that  it  no 
longer  fears,  but  only  laughs  at  him.     "  I,  the  Socialist,  am 

*  Socialism  at  the  International  Congress,  in  Cosmopolis,  September,  1896. 

190 


SHAVIAN  SOCIALISM 

mo  longer  a  Red  Spectre.  I  am  only  a  ridiculous  fellow.  Good : 
I  embrace  the  change.  It  puts  the  world  with  me.  ...  All 
human  progress  involves,  as  its  first  condition,  the  willingness 
of  the  pioneer  to  make  a  fool  of  himself.  The  sensible  man  is 
the  man  who  adapts  himself  to  existing  conditions.  The  fool  is 
the  man  who  persists  in  trying  to  adapt  the  conditions  to  him- 
self. Both  extremes  have  their  disadvantages.  I  cling  to  mj 
waning  folly  as  a  corrective  to  my  waxing  good  sense  as  anx- 
iously as  I  once  nursed  my  good  sense  to  defend  myself  against 
my  folly."  Shaw  is  the  very  man  of  whom  his  own  Don  Juan 
said :  "  He  can  only  be  enslaved  whilst  he  is  spiritually  weak 
enough  to  listen  to  reason." 


191 


I 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

"Produce  me  your  best  critic,  and  I  will  criticize  his  head  off." — On 
Diabolonian  Ethics.    In  Three  Plays  for  Puritans.    Preface,  p.  xxi. 


CHAPTER  VII 

SHAW'S  career  as  a  critic  dates  from  the  period  of  his  first 
acquaintance  with  Mr.  William  Archer,  in  1885.  After 
living  for  nine  years,  according  to  his  own  story,  on  the  six 
pounds  of  which  he  is  so  fond  of  speaking,  Shaw  was  at  last 
reduced  to  quite  straitened  financial  circumstances.  He  eagerly 
seized  the  opportunity  to  become  a  critic  afforded  him  by  Mr. 
Archer's  ingenious  kindness.  "  Our  friend,  William  Archer," 
Shaw  relates,  "  troubled  by  this  state  of  things,  to  which  the 
condition  of  my  wardrobe  bore  convincing  testimony,  rescued  me 
by  a  stratagem.  Being  already  famous  as  the  '  W.  A.'  of  the 
World's  drama,  he  boldly  offered  to  criticize  pictures  as  well. 
Edmund  Yates  was  only  too  glad  to  get  so  excellent  a  critic. 
Archer  got  me  to  do  the  work,  resigned  the  post  as  soon  as  I  had 
got  firm  hold  of  it,  and  left  me  in  possession."  The  years  from 
1885  to  1889,  during  which  he  lived  at  29,  Fitzroy  Square,  Shaw 
devoted  in  part  to  criticism  of  art,  contemporary  English  art  in 
particular;  during  this  period,  he  once  told  me,  he  criticized 
every  picture  show  in  London.  He  also  published  many  un- 
signed literary  reviews  and  sallies  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette; 
whilst  a  number  of  his  criticisms  of  pictures  appeared  in  un- 
signed paragraphs,  both  in  the  World,  1885  to  1888,  and  in 
Truth,  1889.  A  few  of  his  critiques  also  appeared  in  a  maga- 
zine called  Our  Corner. 

I  recently  read  Shaw's  critical  reviews  of  this  period,  espe- 
cially the  complete  file  of  his  articles  in  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette 
from  May  16th,  1885,  to  August  31st,  1888,  placed  at  my  dis- 
posal by  Mr.  Shaw.  The  articles  are  pertinent  and  shrewd,  but 
only  comparatively  few  are  marked  by  that  peculiar  and  fan- 
tastic humour  which  has  come  to  be  known  as  Shavian.  They 
embrace  every  sort  of  subject  from  Ouida's  novels  to  the  Life 
of  Madame  BlavatsTey,  from  Grant  Allen  to  W.  Stanley  Jevons, 
from  Cairo  to  the  Surrey  Hills — art,  fiction,  music,  drama, 

195 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

science,  theology.  Occasionally  Shaw  took  delight  in  adding 
to  the  gaiety  and  curiosity  of  his  readers  by  putting  forth 
some  Shavian  frivolity,  under  an  assumed  name.  Such,  for 
example,  was  his  letter  to  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette  on  The  Taming 
of  the  Shrew,  dated  June  8th,  1888,  the  earliest  instance  I  have 
of  his  so-called  "  Shakspearean  Bull-baiting  " — a  letter  copied 
innumerable  times  and  in  almost  every  paper  in  the  United 
Kingdom.     It  ran  as  follows: 

"  To  the  Editor  of  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette. 

"  Snt, — They  say  that  the  American  woman  is  the  most 
advanced  woman  to  be  found  at  present  on  this  planet.  I 
am  an  Englishwoman,  just  come  up,  frivolously  enough, 
from  Devon  to  enjoy  a  few  weeks  of  the  season  in  London, 
and  at  the  very  first  theatre  I  visit  I  find  an  American 
woman  playing  Katharine  in  The  Taming  of  the  Shrew — 
a  piece  which  is  one  vile  insult  to  womanhood  and  man- 
hood from  the  first  word  to  the  last.  I  think  no  woman 
should  enter  a  theatre  where  that  play  is  performed;  and 
I  should  not  have  stayed  to  witness  it  myself,  but  that, 
having  been  told  that  the  Daly  Company  has  restored 
Shakspeare's  version  to  the  stage,  I  desired  to  see  with 
my  own  eyes  whether  any  civilized  audience  would  stand 
its  brutality.  Of  course,  it  was  not  Shakspeare:  it  was 
only  Garrick  adulterated  by  Shakspeare.  Instead  of 
Shakspeare's  coarse,  thick-skinned  money  hunter,  who  sets 
to  work  to  tame  his  wife  exactly  as  brutal  people  tame 
animals  or  children — that  is,  by  breaking  their  spirit  by 
domineering  cruelty — we  had  Garrick's  fop  who  tries  to 
'  shut  up  '  his  wife  by  behaving  worse  than  she — a  plan 
which  is  often  tried  by  foolish  and  ill-mannered  young 
husbands  in  real  life,  and  one  which  invariably  fails  igno- 
miniously,  as  it  deserves  to.  The  gentleman  who  plays 
Petruchio  at  Daly's — I  neither  know  nor  desire  to  know 
his  name — does  what  he  can  to  persuade  the  audience  that 
he  is  not  in  earnest,  and  that  the  whole  play  is  a  farce, 
just  as  Garrick  before  him  found  it  necessary  to  do ;  but 
in  spite  of  his  fine  clothes,  even  at  the  wedding,  and  his 

196 


Alvi?i  Langdon  Coburn.'] 


SHAW'S    SECOND     HOME     IN     LONDON. 
Fitzroy    Square  (No.  29). 


{Facing  p.  194 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

winks  and  smirks  when  Katharine  is  not  looking,  he  can- 
not make  the  spectacle  of  a  man  cracking  a  heavy  whip 
at  a  starving  woman  otherwise  than  disgusting  and  un- 
manly. In  an  age  when  a  woman  was  a  mere  chattel, 
Katharine's  degrading  speech  about 

"*Thy  husband  is  thy  lord,  thy  life,  thy  keeper, 

Thy  head,  thy  sovereign:  one  that  cares  for  thee  (with  a  whip), 
And  for  thy  maintainance ;  commits  his  body 
To  painful  labour,  both  by  sea  and  land,'  etc. 

might  have  passed  with  an  audience  of  bullies.  But 
imagine  a  parcel  of  gentlemen  in  the  stalls  at  the  Gaiety 
Theatre,  half  of  them  perhaps  living  idly  on  their  wives' 
incomes,  grinning  complacently  through  it  as  if  it  were 
true  or  even  honourably  romantic.  I  am  sorry  that  I 
did  not  come  to  town  earlier  that  I  might  have  made  a 
more  timely  protest.  In  the  future  I  hope  all  men  and 
women  who  respect  one  another  will  boycott  The  Taming 
of  the  Shrew  until  it  is  driven  off  the  boards. 

"  Yours  truly, 

"  HoRATIA  RlBBONSON. 

"  St.   James's   Hotel,   and  Fairheugh  Rectory,  North 
Devon,  June  7th." 

In  his  capacity  as  art  critic,  when  time  was  priceless  and 
hundreds  of  pictures  had  to  be  examined  critically,  Shaw  found 
his  knowledge  of  phonography  invaluable.  I  recently  looked 
over  a  collection  of  his  art  catalogues  during  a  single  year, 
and  his  phonographic  notes  give  a  miniature  forecast  of  the 
art  criticism  he  is  presently  to  write.  Beside  the  titles  of 
certain  pictures  often  appears  a  single  adjective:  "gaudy," 
"brilliant,"  "stupid,"  and  the  like;  beside  others,  "  Wilkie," 
"  Reynolds,"  and  the  names  of  other  artists,  indicating  his 
detection  of  resemblance  to  or  imitation  of  the  works  of  the 
masters.  Beside  the  mention  of  a  "  Lighthouse "  picture  is 
pencilled  the  explanatory  note,  a  mixture  of  praise  and  blame : 
"  Too  green.  Has  a  lamp  lighted.  Good  subject."  One 
recognizes  the  Shavian  timbre  in  such  laconic  notes  as  "  Fluffy 
style";    "What    does    he    mean?"    "Very    dreadful!"    and 

197 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

"  Same  old  game."  And  we  feel  sure  that  Shaw  will  "  gore 
and  trample  "  the  unfortunate  wretches  who  called  forth  the 
damning  comments — "  wheels  awful,"  "  idiotic,"  and  "  green 
blush  and  pasty  face." 

During  these  years,  however,  from  1885  to  1888  in  especial, 
Socialism  was  the  living  centre  of  all  Shaw's  interests.  His 
time  was  principally  devoted  to  the  most  active  form  of  So- 
cialist propagandism.  The  literary  articles  of  this  period  do 
not  possess  the  piquant  interest  of  the  "  C.  di  B."  or  the 
"  G.  B.  S."  criticisms,  which  are  quite  remarkable  for  epigram, 
satire,  and  paradox.  Most  of  them  are  almost  unintelligible 
now  that  they  can  no  longer  be  read  with  the  context  of  the 
events  of  the  week  in  which  they  appeared.  Shaw  has  always 
been  a  leader  of  forlorn  hopes ;  at  this  time,  willy-nilly,  he  was 
on  the  side  of  the  majority.  I  remember  one  day  quoting 
Clarence  Rook's  remark  to  the  effect  that  Shaw  is  like  the  kite, 
and  can  rise  only  when  the  popularis  aura  is  against  him. 
"  No,  that  is  a  radical  mistake,"  Mr.  Shaw  said  forcibly.  "  I 
have  never  worked  with  the  sense  that  everybody  is  against 
me.  On  the  contrary,  my  inspiration  springs  from  a  sense  of 
sympathy  with  my  views."  Still,  one  might  say  that  it  has 
always  been  as  a  defiant  and  vexatious  personality  that  Shaw 
has  best  succeeded  in  arousing  and  challenging  clamorous  pro- 
test. Hermann  Bahr  insists  that  Bernard  Shaw  possesses  in 
rich  measure  the  remarkable  and  exceptional  talent  of  the 
great  artist-critic:  the  ability  to  arouse  the  whole  state,  the 
whole  nation,  against  him.  Not  only  was  that  opposition, 
which  is  the  very  breath  of  his  nostrils,  non-existent :  there  was 
no  great  battle  on  in  the  world  of  art  in  London  comparable 
to  those  that  were  yet  to  be  waged.  It  is  true  that  the  Im- 
pressionist movement  was  struggling  for  life  in  London,  and 
while  Shaw  defended  it  vigorously,  neither  its  day  nor  his  day 
was  yet  come.  As  an  almost  totally  unknown,  comparatively 
unskilled  critic  of  literature  and  art,  he  could  scarcely  be 
expected  to  create  the  unparalleled  sensations  which  he  subse- 
quently achieved  as  a  Shakespearean  image-breaker,  a  cham- 
pion of  Wagner  and  Ibsen,  and  the  most  radical  exponent  of 
the  newest  forms  of  the  New  Drama. 

198 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

And  yet  it  was  during  these  very  years  that  he  developed 
those  remarkable  qualities  which  have  won  him  the  title  of 
the  most  brilliant  of  contemporary  British  journalistic  critics. 
On  all  sides  the  younger  generation,  which  included  Mr.  Shaw 
as  one  of  its  most  daring  and  iconoclastic  members,  rose  up  in 
revolt  against  academicism  in  style.  The  New  Journalism  came 
into  being.  "  Lawless  young  men,"  says  Shaw,  "  began  to 
write  and  print  the  living  English  language  of  their  own  day 
instead  of  the  prose  style  of  one  of  Macaulay's  characters 
named  Addison.  They  split  their  infinitives  and  wrote  such 
phrases  as  '  a  man  nobody  ever  heard  of,'  instead  of,  '  a  man 
of  whom  nobody  had  ever  heard  ' ;  or,  more  classical  still,  '  a 
writer  hitherto  unknown.'  Musical  critics,  instead  of  reading 
books  about  their  business  and  elegantly  regurgitating  their 
erudition,  began  to  listen  to  music  and  to  distinguish  between 
sounds ;  critics  of  painting  began  to  look  at  pictures ;  critics 
of  the  drama  began  to  look  at  something  besides  the  stage ;  and 
descriptive  writers  actually  broke  into  the  House  of  Commons, 
elbowing  the  reporters  into  the  background,  and  writing  about 
political  leaders  as  if  they  were  mere  play-actors.  The  inter- 
view, the  illustration,  and  the  cross-heading  hitherto  looked  on 
as  American  vulgarities  impossible  to  English  literary  gentle- 
men, invaded  all  our  papers;  and,  finally,  as  the  climax  and 
masterpiece  of  literary  Jacobinism,  the  Saturday  Review  ap- 
peared with  a  signed  article  in  it.  Then  Mr.  Traill  and  all 
his  generation  covered  their  faces  with  their  togas  and  died  at 
the  base  of  Addison's  statue,  which  all  the  while  ran  ink." 
"  Don't  misunderstand  my  position,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  remarked 
to  me.  "  It  is  true  that  I  was  opposed  to  academicism  in  style, 
not  to  style  itself.  I  believe  in  style.  I  thought  that  the 
academicism  we  had  was  not  good  academicism.  I  was  pedantic 
enough  myself  when  I  first  began  to  write — when  I  wrote  my 
first  novel.  Afterwards  I  came  to  the  conclusion  that  a  phrase 
meant  much  only  after  it  had  been  washed  into  shape  in  the 
mouths  of  dozens  of  generations.  The  fact  of  the  matter  is 
that  I  am  extremely  sensitive  to  the  form  of  art."  Shaw 
simply  repudiated  the  classical  tradition  of  writing  like  "  a 
scholar  and  a  gentleman."     As  far  as  his  scholarship  was  con- 

199 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

cerned,  he  took  the  greatest  pains  to  dissemble  the  little  he 
possessed.  Moreover,  he  doubted  if  it  had  ever  been  worth 
while  being  a  "  gentleman,"  and  used  every  means  in  his  power 
to  discredit  this  antiquated  survival  of  the  age  of  sentimen- 
talism.  He  always  aimed  at  accuracy,  but  scoffed  consumedly 
at  the  notion  of  achieving  "  justice  "  in  criticism.  "  I  am  not 
God  Almighty,"  he  said  in  effect,  "  and  nobody  but  a  fool  could 
expect  justice  from  me,  or  any  other  superhuman  attribute." 
He  wrote  boldly  according  to  his  bent;  he  said  only  what  he 
wanted  to  say,  and  not  what  he  thought  he  ought  to  say,  or 
what  was  right,  or  what  was  just.  To  Shaw,  this  affected, 
manufactured,  artificial  conscience  of  morality  and  justice  was 
of  no  use  in  the  writing  of  genuine  criticism,  or  in  the  making 
of  true  works  of  art.  For  that,  he  felt  that  one  must  have 
the  real  conscience  that  gives  a  man  courage  to  fulfil  his  will 
by  saying  what  he  likes.  An  epigram  I  once  heard  him  make: 
"  Accuracy  only  means  discovering  the  relation  of  your  will 
to  facts  instead  of  cooking  the  facts  to  save  trouble  " — is  a 
note  of  his  entire  criticism.  Shaw  sought  simply  to  write  as 
accurately,  as  frankly,  as  vividly,  and  as  lightly  as  possible. 
He  hesitated  neither  at  violating  taste,  nor  at  being  vexatious, 
even  positively  disagreeable.  "  If  I  meet  an  American  tourist 
who  is  greatly  impressed  with  the  works  of  Raphael,  Kaulbach, 
Delaroche  and  Barry,"  he  once  said,  "  and  I,  with  Titian  and 
Velasquez  in  my  mind,  tell  him  that  not  one  of  his  four  heroes 
was  a  real  painter,  I  am  no  doubt  putting  my  case  absurdly; 
but  I  am  not  talking  nonsense,  for  all  that:  indeed,  to  the 
adept  seer  of  pictures  I  am  only  formulating  a  commonplace 
in  an  irritatingly  ill-considered  way.  But  in  this  world  if  you 
do  not  say  a  thing  in  an  irritating  way,  you  may  just  as  well 
not  say  it  at  all,  since  nobody  will  trouble  themselves  about 
anything  that  does  not  trouble  them." 

Mr.  H.  M.  Hyndman,  the  great  English  Socialist,  once  told 
me  that  he  was  really  the  first  person  in  England  to  discover 
Shaw.  "  In  1883,"  he  explained,  "  I  wrote  a  letter  of  recom- 
mendation for  Shaw  to  Frederick  Greenwood,  at  that  time 
editor  of  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette.  The  letter  led  to  nothing,  it 
is  true;  but  that  is  not  material.     The  point  is,  that  in  that 

200 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

letter  I  compared  Shaw  to  Heine — a  comparison  for  which  I 
have  been  unmercifully  chaffed  many  times  since.  Of  course, 
Shaw  does  not  possess  Heine's  wonderful  gift  of  lyrism;  but 
as  iconoclastic  critics,  they  have  many  qualities  in  common. 
In  his  power  to  turn  up  for  our  inspection  the  seamy  side  of 
the  robe  of  modern  life,  and  make  us  recoil  at  the  sight,  Ber- 
nard Shaw  is  without  a  peer. 

"  I  have  always  been  inclined  to  class  Bernard  Shaw  and  my 
dear  friend  George  Meredith  together.  In  enigmatic  character 
and  faculty  of  mystification  as  to  their  real  opinion,  they  are 
remarkably  alike." 

Of  Shaw,  in  all  his  criticism,  might  be  quoted  his  own  words 
descriptive  of  George  Henry  Lewes  as  a  critic  of  the  drama: 
"  He  expressed  his  most  laboured  criticisms  with  a  levity  which 
gave  them  the  air  of  being  the  unpremeditated  whimsicalities 
of  a  man  who  had  perversely  taken  to  writing  about  the  theatre 
for  the  sake  of  the  jest  latent  in  his  own  outrageous  unfitness 
for  it.'" 

If  the  world  is  convinced  that  Shaw  is  only  a  gay  deceiver,  he 
himself  has  felt  from  the  very  beginning  that  the  role  he  plays 
is  that  of  the  candid  friend  of  society.  "  Waggery  as  a 
medium  is  invaluable,"  he  once  explained.  "  My  case  is  really 
the  case  of  Rabelais  over  again.  When  I  first  began  to  pro- 
mulgate my  opinions,  I  found  that  they  appeared  extravagant, 
and  even  insane.  In  order  to  get  a  hearing,  it  was  necessary 
for  me  to  attain  the  footing  of  a  privileged  lunatic,  with  the 
licence  of  a  jester.  Fortunately  the  matter  was  very  easy.  I 
found  that  I  had  only  to  say  with  perfect  simplicity  what  I 
seriously  meant  just  as  it  struck  me,  to  make  everybody  laugh. 
My  method,  you  will  have  noticed,  is  to  take  the  utmost  trouble 
to  find  the  right  thing  to  say,  and  then  say  it  with  the  utmost 
levity.  And  all  the  time  the  real  joke  is  that  I  am  in  earnest." 
It  is  Shaw's  supreme  distinction  that  he  refuses  to  view  life 
through  the  confining,  beclouding  medium  of  convention.  His 
primal  claim  to  serious  attention  is  based  upon  the  assertion 
of  his  freedom  from  illusion.  If  he  appears  grotesque  and 
eccentric,  it  is  not  so  much  because  he  expresses  himself  gro- 
tesquely and  eccentrically:  it  is  primarily  because  he  scruti- 

201 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

nizes  life  with  a  more  aquiline  eyesight  than  that  of  the  illuded 
majority.  His  levity  has  saved  him  from  martyrdom;  for, 
although  it  is  a  very  difficult  thing  to  speak  disagreeable  truths, 
it  is  a  still  more  difficult  thing  to  listen  to  them.  Recall  the 
treatment  the  British  public  gave  to  George  Moore  for  his 
advocacy  of  realism,  to  Vizetelly  for  his  championing  of  Zola, 
even  to  Shaw  himself  for  his  defence  of  Ibsen !  Shaw  has  based 
all  his  brilliancy  and  solidity,  Mr.  Chesterton  acutely  observes, 
upon  the  hackneyed,  but  yet  forgotten,  fact  that  truth  is 
stranger  than  fiction.  And  Shaw  himself  has  cleverly  put  the 
case  in  his  own  paradoxical  way.  "  There  is  an  indescribable 
levity — not  triviality  mind,  but  levity — something  spritelike 
about  the  final  truth  of  a  matter;  and  this  exquisite  levity 
communicates  itself  to  the  style  of  a  writer  who  will  face  the 
labour  of  digging  down  to  it.  It  is  the  half-truth  which  is 
congruous,  heavy,  serious,  and  suggestive  of  a  middle-aged  or 
elderly  philosopher.  The  whole  truth  is  often  the  first  thing 
that  comes  into  the  head  of  a  fool  or  a  child;  and  when  a  wise 
man  forces  his  way  to  it  through  the  many  strata  of  his 
sophistications,  its  wanton,  perverse  air  reassures  him  instead 
of  frightening  him."  * 

This  spritelike  quality,  this  indescribable  levity  inherent  in 
the  final  truth  of  a  matter,  has  communicated  itself  to  Shaw's 
style  in  the  most  intimate  way.  With  the  not  unnatural  result 
that  it  is  difficult  for  the  average  man  to  believe  that  opinions 
advanced  with  such  light-hearted  levity  carry  any  of  the  weight 
of  final  truth.  It  is  for  this  reason  that  all  of  Shaw's  attempts 
to  write  genuine  autobiography  have  been  greeted  with  the 
most  amiable  scepticism.  Shaw  himself  is  able  to  speak  with 
more  confidence  on  the  folly  of  writing  scientific  natural  his- 
tory, because  he  has1  tried  the  experiment,  within  certain  timid 
limits,  of  being  candidly  autobiographical. 

"  I  have  produced  no  permanent  impression,"  he  de- 
clares, "  because  nobody  has  ever  believed  me.    I  once  told 

*  Who  I  Am,  and  What  I  Think.    Part  II.,  in  the  Candid  Friend,  May 
18th,  1901. 

202 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

a  brilliant  London  journalist  *  some  facts  about  my  fam- 
ily, running  to  forty-first  cousins  and  to  innumerable 
seconds  and  thirds.  Like  most  large  families,  it  did  not 
consist  exclusively  of  teetotallers,  nor  did  all  its  members 
remain  until  death  up  to  the  very  moderate  legal  standard 
of  sanity.  One  of  them  discovered  an  absolutely  original 
method  of  committing  suicide.  It  was  simple  to  the  verge 
of  triteness,  yet  no  human  being  had  ever  thought  of  it 
before.  It  was  also  amusing.  But  in  the  act  of  carrying 
it  out,  my  relative  jammed  the  mechanism  of  his  heart — 
possibly  in  the  paroxysm  of  laughter  which  the  mere  nar- 
ration of  his  suicidal  method  has  never  since  failed  to 
provoke — and  if  I  may  be  allowed  to  state  the  result  in 
my  Irish  way,  he  died  a  second  before  he  succeeded  in 
killing  himself.  The  coroner's  jury  found  that  he  died 
'  from  natural  causes  ' ;  and  the  secret  of  the  suicide  was 
kept  not  only  from  the  public,  but  from  most  of  the 
family. 

"  I  revealed  the  secret  in  private  conversation  to  the 
brilliant  journalist  aforesaid.  He  shrieked  with  laughter 
and  printed  the  whole  story  in  his  next  causerie.  It  never 
for  a  moment  occurred  to  him  that  it  was  true.  To  this 
day  he  regards  me  as  the  most  reckless  liar  in  London." 

Had  Shaw  ever  attempted  to  write  the  Rougon-Macquart 
history  of  his  family  in  twenty  volumes,  along  the  candid  lines 
of  the  above  narrative,  it  is  not  improbable  that  he  would  there- 
after have  been  permanently  and  forcibly  deprived  of  his 
privileges  as  a  lunatic.  "  I  have  not  yet  ascertained  the  truth 
about  myself,"  he  wrote  some  years  ago.  "  For  instance,  am  I 
mad  or  sane?  I  really  do  not  know.  Doubtless,  I  am  clever 
in  certain  directions ;  my  talent  has  enabled  me  to  cut  a  figure 
in  my  profession  in  London.  But  a  man  may,  like  Don 
Quixote,  be  clever  enough  to  cut  a  figure  and  yet  be  stark  mad. 
A  critic  recently  described  me,  with  deadly  acuteness,  as  hav- 
ing '  a  kindly  dislike  of  my  fellow-creatures.'     Perhaps  dread 

*Mr.  A.  B.  Walkley,  Mr.  Shaw  lately  told  me. 

203 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

would  have  been  nearer  the  mark  than  dislike;  for  man  is  the 
only  animal  of  which  I  am  thoroughly  and  cravenly  afraid.  I 
have  never  thought  much  of  the  courage  of  a  lion  tamer.  In- 
side the  cage  he  is  at  least  safe  from  other  men.  There  is  not 
much  harm  in  a  lion.  He  has  no  ideals,  no  religion,  no  politics, 
no  chivalry,  no  gentility;  in  short,  no  reason  for  destroying 
anything  that  he  does  not  want  to  eat.  In  the  late  war,  the 
Americans  burnt  the  Spanish  fleet,  and  finally  had  to  drag  men 
out  of  hulls  that  had  become  furnaces.  The  effect  of  this  on 
one  of  the  American  commanders  was  to  make  him  assemble 
his  men  and  tell  them  that  he  believed  in  God  Almighty.  No 
lion  would  have  done  that.  On  reading  it  and  observing  that 
the  newspapers,  representing  normal  public  opinion,  seemed 
to  consider  it  a  very  creditable,  natural  and  impressively  pious 
incident,  I  came  to  the  conclusion  that  I  must  be  mad.  At  all 
events,  if  I  am  sane,  the  rest  of  the  world  ought  not  to  be  at 
large.     We  cannot  both  see  things  as  they  really  are." 

It  was  at  a  somewhat  later  time  that  the  critics  came  to  treat 
Shaw  as  a  reckless  liar  and  a  privileged  lunatic.  At  this  period, 
he  impressed  the  self-conscious  literary  clique  as  a  witty,  but 
frivolous,  ignoramus,  totally  incompetent  to  discuss  the  high 
subjects  of  which  he  professed  such  penetrating  comprehension. 
I  once  had  an  interesting  discussion  with  Mr.  Shaw  about  the 
subject  of  his  flippancy.  "  Do  you  accept  as  just  the  criticism, 
made  in  some  quarters,"  I  asked  Mr.  Shaw,  "  that  you  and 
Whistler  were  very  much  alike  in  your  attitude  towards  the 
general  public  ?  " 

"  Not  at  all,  that  is  a  crude  error,"  replied  Mr.  Shaw  ear- 
nestly. "  Whistler  came  to  grief  because  he  gave  himself  up  to 
clever  smartness,  which  is  abhorrent  to  the  average  English- 
man. As  for  me,  I  have  never  for  a  moment  lost  sight  of  my 
serious  relation  to  a  serious  public.  You  see,  I  had  an  advan- 
tage over  Whistler  in  any  case,  for  at  least  three  times  every 
week  I  could  escape  from  artistic  and  literary  stuff,  and  talk 
seriously  on  serious  subjects  to  serious  people.  For  this  rea- 
son— because  I  persisted  in  Socialist  propagandism — I  never 
once  lost  touch  with  the  real  world." 

Shaw's  critiques,  sallies,  and  reviews  were  the  combination  of 

204 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

a  laborious  criticism  with  a  recklessly  flippant  manner.  Into 
literature  he  carried  the  methods  he  adopted  on  the  platform, 
where  he  tossed  off  the  most  diligently  acquired,  studiously 
pondered  information  with  all  the  insouciance  of  omniscience. 
As  a  critic,  Shaw  has  ever  laboured  for  the  scanty  wages  of 
the  "  intolerable  fatigue  of  thought."  In  characteristic  style, 
he  has  gone  so  far  as  to  declare  that  good  journalism  is  much 
rarer  and  more  important  than  good  literature;  he  has  no 
sympathy  with  Disraeli's  view  of  a  critic  as  an  author  who  has 
failed.  "  I  know  as  one  who  has  practised  both  crafts,"  wrote 
Shaw  in  1892,  "  that  authorship  is  child's  play  compared  to 
criticism;  and  I  have,  you  may  depend  upon  it,  my  full  share 
of  the  professional  instinct  which  regards  the  romancer  as  a 
mere  adventurer  in  literature  and  the  critic  as  a  highly  skilled 
workman.  Ask  any  novelist  or  dramatist  whether  he  can  write 
a  better  novel  or  play  than  I ;  and  he  will  blithely  say  '  Yes.' 
Ask  him  to  take  my  place  as  critic  -for  one  week;  and  he  will 
blench  from  the  test.  The  truth  is  that  the  critic  stands  be- 
tween popular  authorship,  for  which  he  is  not  silly  enough, 
and  great  authorship,  for  which  he  is  not  genius  enough."  * 

While  Mr.  Shaw  was  laboriously  striving  to  impart  lightness 
and  insouciance  to  his  literary  style,  and  to  acquire  careless 
sang-froid  as  a  platform  speaker,  he  was  likewise  making  the 
acquaintance  of  certain  distinguished  men  of  his  day.  His 
relation  and  association  with  William  Morris5  for  example, 
exercised  no  noteworthy  influence  upon  his  art;  but  it  cer- 
tainly did  no  less  than  accentuate  certain  distinct  traits  of  his 
character.  Unmistakably,  in  this  way,  does  this  association 
serve  to  give  us  a  clearer  insight  into  the  rationale  of  Shaw's — 
popularly-called — idiosyncrasies.  On  the  other  hand,  it  fur- 
nishes us  a  new  aspect  of  Morris  from  the  Shavian  point  of 
view. 

Readers  of  the  authorized  edition  of  Cashel  Byron's  Profes- 
sion will  recall  that  William  Morris,  who,  like  Shaw,  had  thrown 
himself  into   the   Socialist  revival   of   the   early  eighties,   first 

*  The  Author  to  the  Dramatic  Critics,  Appendix  I.  to  the  first  edition  of 
Widowers'  Houses.    London,  Henry  and  Co.,  Bouverie  Street,  E.C.,  1893. 

205 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

became  curious  about  Shaw  through  reading  the  monthly  in- 
stalments of  An  Unsocial  Socialist  as  they  appeared  in  the 
Socialist  magazine  To-Day.  Shaw  had  heard  of  Morris,  to 
be  sure;  and  had  even,  years  before,  once  seen  him — of  all 
places  in  the  world! — in  the  Dore  Gallery.  Yet  his  notions 
about  Morris  were,  in  reality,  of  the  vaguest.  He  knew  noth- 
ing beyond  the  meagre  facts  that  he  was  a  poet,  that  he  be- 
longed to  the  Rossetti  circle,  and  that  he  was  associated  with 
Burne-Jones  and  with  what  was  then  called  iEstheticism.  He 
had  never  read  a  line  of  Morris's,  and,  in  fact,  had  taken  no 
definite  measure  of  his  calibre.  This  was  the  situation  when 
Shaw  found  himself  one  evening  in  Gatti's  big  restaurant  in 
the  Strand  at  the  table  with  Morris  and  H.  M.  Hyndman. 
Morris  belonged  to  Mr.  Hyndman's  society,  the  Democratic 
Federation,  now  the  Social-Democratic  Federation,  while  Mr. 
Hyndman  himself  was  the  head  centre  of  London  Socialism. 
With  naive  simplicity,  Morris  humbly  announced  that  he  was 
prepared  to  do  whatever  he  was  told  and  go  wherever  he  was 
led:  that  was  all  he  could  say.  In  a  letter  to  me  describing 
the  interview,  written  many  years  afterwards,  Mr.  Shaw  said 
that,  while  it  was  only  snap- judgment — a  personal  impression 
across  the  table — he  could  not  help  being  "  privately  tickled 
by  this  announcement  from  an  obviously  ungovernable  man  who 
was  too  big  to  be  led  by  any  of  us." 

In  ignorance  concerning  Morris,  Shaw  was  not  alone:  the 
other  Socialists  were  in  precisely  the  same  predicament.  Mor- 
ris himself  said  afterwards  that  it  was  among  his  Socialist 
confreres  that  he  first  realized  he  was  an  elderly  duffer.  His 
old  Rossettian  associates  used  to  call  him  Topsy;  but,  as 
readers  of  Lady  Burne-Jones's  Memorials  will  recall,  Burne- 
Jones  used  to  be  angry  when  she  applied  this  embarrassing 
nickname  to  Morris  before  strangers.  If  Morris  was  affec- 
tionately regarded  as  a  young  man  by  his  associates  of  the 
"  P.  R.  B.,"  to  his  Socialist  allies  he  looked  older  than  he  was — 
sixty  at  fifty,  though  a  magnificent  sixty — a  sort  of  "  sixty- 
years-young  "  patriarch.  Morris  and  Shaw,  after  they  set- 
tled down  to  the  routine  of  Socialist  agitation,  were  at  the 
opposite  poles  of  the  movement.      Shaw  headed   the  Fabian 

206 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

Society,  while  Morris,  after  his  secession  from  the  S.  D.  F., 
organized  the  Socialist  League,  which  shortly  went  to  pieces — 
because,  as  Shaw  says,  there  was  only  one  William  Morris ;  he 
was  afterwards  the  leading  spirit  in  the  Hammersmith  So- 
cialist Society.  Despite  this  fundamental  difference  in  view- 
point— for  Morris's  fundamental  conceptions  were  "  Equality, 
Communism,  and  the  rediscovery  under  Communism  of  Art  as 
*  work-pleasure,'  "  whereas  Shaw,  as  a  Fabian,  aimed  simply 
at  the  reduction  of  Socialism  to  a  constitutional  political  pol- 
icy— there  was  never  any  personal  friction  between  the  two. 
Indeed,  they  did  a  great  deal  of  speaking  together  in  the  early 
days,  most  of  it  at  the  street  corner,  and  often  thought  them- 
selves lucky  if  they  had  an  audience  of  twenty.  In  after  years, 
we  find  Morris  with  the  broadest  of  views  endeavouring  to  set- 
tle the  differences  which  arose  between  the  various  Socialist 
sects.  By  1893,  when  he  gave  his  well-known  address  entitled 
Communism  before  the  Hammersmith  Socialist  Society,  Morris 
had  acquired  an  intimate  knowledge  of  the  attempt  to  organize 
Socialism  in  England  which  began  in  the  early  eighties.  "  He 
had  himself  undertaken  and  conducted,"  writes  Shaw,  "  that 
part  of  the  experiment  which  nobody  else  would  face:  namely, 
the  discovery  and  combination,  without  distinction  of  class,  of 
all  those  who  were  capable  of  understanding  Equality  and  Com- 
munism as  he  understood  it,  and  their  organization  as  an  ef- 
fective force  for  the  overthrow  of  the  existing  order  of  prop- 
erty and  privilege.  In  doing  so  he  had  been  brought  into 
contact,  and  often  into  conflict,  with  every  other  section  of  the 
movement.  He  knew  all  his  men  and  knew  all  their  methods. 
He  knew  that  the  agitation  was  exhausted,  and  that  the  time 
had  come  to  deal  with  the  new  policy  which  the  agitation  had 
shaken  into  existence.  Accordingly,  we  find  him  in  this  (the 
above-mentioned)  paper,  doing  what  he  could  to  economize  the 
strength  of  the  movement  by  making  peace  between  its  jarring 
sections,  and  recalling  them  from  their  disputes  over  tactics  and 
programs  to  the  essentials  of  their  cause."  * 

*Note  of  the  Editor,  G.  B.  Shaw,  of  Fabian  Tract  No.  113:  Communism 
—a  lecture  by  William  Morris,  published  by  the  Fabian  Society. 

207 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

None  of  Morris'  Socialist  associates  were  in  the  least  degree 
hero-worshippers,  at  least  where  he  was  concerned:  they  never 
bothered  at  all  about  his  eminence.  "  I  was  not  myself  con- 
scious of  the  impression  he  had  made  on  me,"  Mr.  Shaw  once 
remarked  to  me,  in  explaining  his  feeling  for  Morris,  "  until 
one  evening,  at  a  debating  society  organized  by  Stopford 
Brooke,  when  Morris,  in  a  speech  on  Socialism  in  the  course  of 
a  debate,  astonished  me  by  saying  that  he  left  the  economics  to 
me — '  in  that  respect  I  regard  Shaw  as  my  master.'  The 
phrase  meant  only  that  he  left  that  side  of  the  case  to  me, 
as  he  always  did  when  we  campaigned  together,  but  though  I 
knew  this,  still  it  gave  me  a  shock  which  made  me  aware  that 
I  had  unconsciously  rated  him  so  highly  that  his  compliment 
gave  me  a  sort  of  revulsion."  It  was  genuine  modesty  which 
once  prompted  Shaw  to  say  that  he  never  liked  to  call  himself 
Morris's  friend,  because  he  was  too  much  his  junior  and  too 
little  necessary  or  serviceable  to  him  in  his  private  affairs.  And 
yet  he  enjoyed  an  unstinted  and  unreserved  intercourse  with 
Morris:  one  of  Shaw's  best-known  Fabian  tracts,  The  Transi- 
tion to  Social  Democracy,  for  example,  was  written  at  Morris's 
mediaeval  manor-house,  Lechlade,  on  the  Thames,  and  was 
heartily  approved  on  its  historical  side  by  that  erudite  student 
of  the  Middle  Ages.  Shaw  once  said  that  no  man  was  more 
liberal  in  his  attempts  to  improve  Morris's  mind  than  he  was; 
"  but  I  always  found  that,  in  so  far  as  I  was  not  making  a 
most  horrible  idiot  of  myself  out  of  misknowledge  (I  could 
forgive  myself  for  pure  ignorance),  he  could  afford  to  listen 
to  me  with  the  patience  of  a  man  who  had  taught  my  teachers. 
There  were  people  whom  we  tried  to  run  him  down  with — Ten- 
nysons,  Swinburnes,  and  so  on ;  but  their  opinions  about  things 
did  not  make  any  difference,  Morris's  did."  * 

Morris  greatly  enjoyed  a  number  of  Shaw's  essays,  for  the 
prime  reason  that  in  those  essays  Shaw  said  certain  things 
which  Morris  wanted  to  have  said.  After  Shaw's  celebrated 
reply  to  Max  Nordau,  Morris  suddenly  began  to  talk  to  Shaw 

*  Obituary  essay:  Morris  as  Actor  and  Dramatist,  in  the  Saturday 
Review,  October  10th,  1896.  Reproduced  in  Dramatic  Opinions  and  Es- 
says, Vol.  II. 

208 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

about  Whistler  and  the  Impressionists  in  a  way  which  showed 
that  he  knew  all  about  them  and  what  they  were  driving  at, 
though  before  that  Shaw  had  given  Morris  up  as — on  that  sub- 
ject— an  intolerant  and  ignorant  veteran  of  the  pre-Raphaelite 
movement.  That  this  was  highly  characteristic  of  Morris  from 
Shaw's  standpoint  is  evidenced  by  some  paragraphs  in  Shaw's 
obituary  notice  of  Morris  in  the  Saturday  Review.  "  When  an 
enthusiast  for  some  fashionable  movement  or  reaction  in  art 
would  force  it  into  the  conversation,  he  (Morris)  would  often 
behave  so  as  to  convey  an  impression  of  invincible  prejudice 
and  intolerant  ignorance,  and  so  get  rid  of  it.  But  later  on, 
he  would  let  slip  something  that  showed,  in  a  flash,  that  he  had 
taken  in  the  whole  movement  at  its  very 'first  demonstration, 
and  had  neither  prejudices  nor  illusions  about  it.  When  you 
knew  the  subject  yourself,  and  could  see  beyond  it  and  around 
it,  putting  it  in  its  proper  place  and  accepting  its  limits,  he 
could  talk  fast  enough  about  it;  but  it  did  not  amuse  him  to 
allow  novices  to  break  a  lance  with  him5  because  he  had  no 
special  facility  for  brilliant  critical  demonstration,  and  re- 
quired too  much  patience  for  his  work  to  waste  any  of  it  on 
idle  discussions.  Consequently  there  was  a  certain  intellectual 
roguery  about  him  of  which  his  intimate  friends  were  very  well 
aware;  so  that  if  a  subject  were  thrust  on  him,  the  aggressor 
was  sure  to  be  ridiculously  taken  in  if  he  did  not  calculate 
on  Morris's  knowing  much  more  about  it  than  he  pretended." 
He  thus  often  presented  himself  as  imperious  and  prejudiced, 
because  up  to  a  certain  point  he  would  neither  agree  nor  discuss, 
simply  giving  you  up  as  walking  in  darkness.  But  the  moment 
you  had  worked  your  way  through  the  subject  and  come  out  on 
the  other  side,  as  Shaw  expressed  it,  Morris  would  suddenly  be- 
gin to  talk  like  an  expert  and  show  all  sorts  of  knowledge — 
scientific,  political,  commercial,  intellectual-as-opposed-to- 
artistic,  and  so  on — that  you  never  suspected  him  of.  "  He 
was  fond  of  quoting  Robert  Owen's  rule :  '  Don't  argue :  re- 
peat your  assertion,'  "  Mr.  Shaw  recently  told  me ;  "  and  mere 
debating,  which  he  knew  to  be  an  intellectual  game  and  not 
an  essential  part  of  the  Will-to-Socialism  (so  to  speak),  did 
not  interest  him   enough  to  make  him  good  at  it.     But  he 

209 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW     >. 

highly  enjoyed  hearing  anyone  else  do  it  cleverly  on  his  side, 
and  was  furious  when  it  was  done  on  the  other  side.  In  point 
of  command  of  modern  critical  language,  he  was  by  no  means 
a  ready  man;  and  as  I  was  in  great  practice  just  then,  he 
would  take  a  prompt  from  me  (if  it  was  the  right  one)  with  as 
much  relief  and  simplicity  as  if  I  had  found  his  spectacles  for 
him." 

Shaw  once  said  that,  as  far  as  he  was  aware,  he  shared  with 
Mr.  Henry  Arthur  Jones  the  distinction  of  being  the  only 
modern  dramatist,  except  the  author  of  Charley's  Aunt,  which 
bored  Morris,  whose  plays  were  witnessed  by  Morris.  Shaw  did 
not  pretend  to  claim  Morris's  visits  as  a  spontaneous  act  of 
homage  to  modern  acting  and  the  modern  drama,  but  only  as 
a  tribute  of  personal  friendship ;  for  Morris  was  a  "  twelfth- 
twentieth-century  artist,"  exclusively  preoccupied  with  a  vision 
of  beauty  unrealized  upon  the  modern  stage.  In  a  passage 
in  a  letter  to  me,  Mr.  Shaw  has  tersely  etched  the  firm  figure 
of  the  artist  and  the  man,  who  could  not  be  induced  "  to  accept 
ugliness  as  art,  no  matter  how  brilliant,  how  fashionable,  how 
sentimental,  or  intellectually  interesting  you  might  make  it." 

"  Morris's  artistic  integrity  was,  humanly  speaking, 
perfect.  You  could  not  turn  him  aside  from  the  question 
of  the  beauty  and  the  decency  of  a  thing  by  bringing  up 
its  interest,  scientific,  casuistic,  novel,  curious,  historical, 
or  what  not.  That  was  most  extraordinary  in  so  clever 
a  man;  for  he  was  capable  of  all  the  interests.  Com- 
pared to  him  Ruskin  was  not  an  artist  at  all :  he  was  only 
a  man  whose  interest  in  Nature  led  him  to  study  Turner, 
and  whose  insight  into  religion  gave  him  a  clue  to  the  art 
of  the  really  religious  painters.  He  would  not  give  two- 
pence for  a  rarity  or  a  curiosity  or  a  relic;  but  when  he 
saw  a  sanely  beautiful  thing,  and  it  was  for  sale,  he  went 
into  the  shop;  seized  it,  held  it  tight  under  his  arm  (it 
was  generally  a  mediaeval  book)  ;  and,  after  the  feeblest 
and  most  transparent  show  of  bargaining,  bought  it  for 
whatever  was  asked.  Once,  when  he  was  rebuked  for  pay- 
ing eight  hundred  pounds   for  something  that  a  dealer 

210 


Photo  by  Elliott  &  Fry'] 


htkifrMwi 


[Baker  Street,  London. 


[Facing  v.  209 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

would  have  got  for  four  hundred  and  fifty  pounds,  I  said, 
'  If  you  want  a  thing,  you  always  get  the  worst  of  the 
bargain.'  Morris  was  delighted  with  my  wisdom,  and 
probably  spent  many  unnecessary  pounds  on  the  strength 
of  that  poor  excuse. 

"  This  artistic  integrity  of  his  was  what  made  him  un- 
intelligible to  the  Philistine  public.  When  the  Americans 
set  to  work  to  imitate  his  printing,  they  showed  that  they 
regarded  him  as  a  fashionably  quaint  and  foolish  person; 
and  the  Roycroft  Shop  and  all  the  rest  of  the  culture- 
curiosity  shops  of  the  States  poured  forth  abominations 
which  missed  every  one  of  his  lessons  and  exaggerated 
every  one  of  the  practices  he  tried  to  cure  printers  of. 
In  the  same  way  his  houses  at  Hammersmith  and  Kelm- 
scott  were,  though  quite  homely,  as  beautiful  in  their  do- 
mestic way  as  St.  Sophia's  in  Stamboul ;  but  other  people's 
6  Morris  houses  '  always  went  wrong,  even  when  he  started 
them  right." 

One  day  Mr.  Shaw  and  I  were  discussing  Morris  and  the 
influence  he  exerted  upon  Shaw.  "  What  Morris  taught  me," 
confessed  Mr.  Shaw,  "  was  in  the  main  technical — printing,  for 
example.*  And  I  soon  came  to  realize  that  his  most  charac- 
teristic trait  was  integrity  in  the  artistic  sense.  By  watching 
Morris,  I  first  learned  that  Ruskin  wasn't  strong  as  a  critic  of 
works  of  art.  In  a  sense,  Ruskin  was  a  naturalist  because  he 
understood  Turner.  And  the  key  to  his  comprehension  of  the 
pre-Raphaelites  was  his  religious  sense.  And  yet  he  could  not 
discover  so  glaring  an  error  as  Bernardino  Luini's  employment 
of  the  same  model  for  the  Virgin  and  the  Magdalen.  The 
trouble  with  Ruskin  was  that  he  invariably  fell  into  egregious 
blunders  when  he  didn't  have  his  religious  clue." 

"  I  learned  a  great  deal  from  Morris,"  he  added,  "  be- 
cause Morris  and  I  worked  together  in  Socialism — and,  as 
a  critic,  I  was  intensely  interested  in  the  pre-Raphaelite 
movement." 

*  In  this  connection,  compare  The  Author's  View.  A  Criticism  of  Modern 
Book  Printing.  By  Bernard  Shaw.  In  the  Caxton  Magazine,  January, 
1902. 

211 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

It  was  always  a  source  of  regret  to  Shaw  that  he  never  met 
Burne-Jones,  Morris's  greatest  friend.  When  Morris  died, 
Shaw  wrote  obituary  articles  in  the  Daily  Chronicle  and  in  the 
Saturday  Review;  and  when  McKaiPs  Life  of  Morris  appeared, 
he  reviewed  it  in  the  Daily  Chronicle.  Burne-Jones  was  pleased 
by  the  Saturday  Review  article,  and  wanted  to  meet  Shaw. 
They  made  appointment  after  appointment;  but  something  al- 
ways occurred — an  illness,  a  journey,  or  the  like — to  defeat 
them.  At  last  they  resolved  that  the  meeting  must  come  off; 
and  a  firm  arrangement  was  made — for  a  Sunday  lunch,  it 
seems — to  be  kept  at  all  hazards.  But  Destiny  had  a  card  up 
its  sleeve  that  they  did  not  reckon  with.  Burne-Jones  died  the 
day  before;  so  Shaw  never  met  him  as  an  acquaintance,  and 
only  saw  him  twice,  once  at  an  exhibition  where  he  heard  him 
say  that  a  picture  attibuted  to  Morris  had  been  partly  painted 
by  Madox  Brown,  and  once  at  a  theatre,  where  their  seats 
happened  to  be  next  one  another. 

When  Shaw  became  a  critic  of  music  in  1888,  he  began  to 
consider  whether  he  was  making  enough  money  by  the  very 
hard  work  of  plodding  through  all  the  picture  exhibitions.  At 
last  he  counted  his  gains,  and  found,  to  his  amazement,  that 
his  remuneration  for  paragraphs  at  fivepence  per  line,  worked 
out  at — according  to  his  recollection  afterwards — less  than 
forty  pounds  a  year;  whereas  two  hundred  pounds  would  not 
have  been  at  all  excessive  for  the  work.  "  Edmund  Yates,  when 
I  resigned  and  told  him  why,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me,  "  was 
as  much  staggered  as  I  was  myself,  and  proposed  a  much 
more  lucrative  arrangement  by  which  I  should  divide  the  work 
with  Lady  Colin  Campbell.  But  the  division  would  not  have 
been  fair  to  her ;  and  Yates,  recognizing  this,  did  what  I  asked, 
which  was,  to  hand  the  whole  department  over  to  Lady  Colin, 
and  confine  my  contributions  to  music  alone." 

The  period  of  Shaw's  activities  as  an  art  critic  is  memorable 
less  for  the  quality  and  value  of  his  criticism  than  for  the 
revelation  of  the  essential  moral  integrity  of  the  man  so  often 
denounced  as  the  cranky  immoralist  of  this,  our  time.  This, 
as  we  shall  see,  appears  most  clearly  in  his  relations  with  W. 
E.  Henley,  the  story  of  which,  I  believe,  has  never  been  told 

212 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

in  print;  yet  other  crucial  instances,  equally  revelative,  are 
worthy  of  record.  Shaw's  experience  amply  justifies  his  state- 
ment that  the  public  has  hardly  any  suspicion  of  the  rarity  of 
the  able  editor  who  is  loyal  to  his  profession  and  to  his  staff; 
and  that  without  such  an  editor  even  moderately  honest  criti- 
cism is  impossible.  Take,  for  example,  the  case  of  Shaw  and 
a  London  paper.  Shaw  wrote  about  pictures  for  the  best  part 
of  a  season  until  a  naive  proposal  was  made  to  him  that  he 
should  oblige  certain  artist-friends  of  the  editorium  by  favour- 
able notices,  and  was  assured  that  he  might  oblige  any  friends 
of  his  own  in  the  same  way.  "  This  proposal  was  made  in  per- 
fect good  faith  and  in  all  innocence,"  Shaw  candidly  avers, 
"  it  never  having  occurred  to  those  responsible  that  art  criti- 
cism was  a  serious  pursuit  or  that  any  question  of  morals  or 
conduct  could  possibly  arise  over  it.  Of  course  I  resigned  with 
some  vigour,  though  without  any  ill  humour;  but  some  I  know 
were  quite  sincerely,  pathetically  hurt  by  my  eccentric,  un- 
friendly and  disobliging  conduct."  During  his  career  as  a 
critic  Shaw  was  repeatedly  urged  by  colleagues  to  call  atten- 
tion to  some  abuse  which  they  themselves  were  not  sufficiently 
strongly  situated  to  mention.  He  had  to  resign  very  desirable 
positions  on  the  critical  staff  of  London  papers ;  in  the  case 
above  mentioned,  because  he  considered  it  derogatory  to  write 
insincere  puffs ;  and  in  another  case,  "  because  my  sense  of 
style  revolted  against  the  interpolation  in  my  articles  of  sen- 
tences written  by  others  to  express  high  opinions  of  artists, 
unknown  to  fame  and  to  me."  This  second  resignation  fol- 
lowed the  appearance  of  an  Academy  notice,  written  by  Shaw 
in  the  capacity  of  art  critic  to  another  London  paper.  This 
article  on  an  Academy  exhibition  appeared  padded  out  to  an 
extraordinary  length  by  interpolations  praising  works  which 
Shaw  had  never  seen — "  No.  2,744  is  a  sweet  head  of  Mrs. 

by  that  talented  young  artist,  Miss ,"  and  so  on.     It 

is  needless  to  add  that  Shaw  resigned  in  a  highly  explosive 
manner.  And  so  Shaw  vanished  from  the  picture  galleries.  His 
comment  on  the  conduct  of  the  management  of  these  papers 
explains  his  own  attitude,  testifying  conclusively  to  the  rigour 
of  the  moral  standard  to  which  he  always  conformed.     "  They 

213 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

were  no  more  guilty  of  corruption,"  Mr.  Shaw  expressed  the 
case  to  me,  "  than  a  man  with  no  notion  of  property  can  be 
guilty  of  theft;  and  to  this  day  they  probably  have  not  the 
least  idea  why  I  threw  up  a  reasonably  well-paid  job  and 
assumed  an  attitude  vaguely  implying  some  sort  of  disap- 
proval of  their  right  to  do  what  they  liked  with  their  own 
paper." 

It  was  probably  at  the  particular  Press  view  just  referred  to, 
some  time  after  1889,  that  Henley's  meeting  with  Shaw  oc- 
curred. To  go  back  a  little,  James  Runciman,  the  uncle  of 
J.  F.  Runciman,  the  musical  critic,  was  a  Cashel  Byronite,  and 
used  to  write  Shaw  letters  containing  occasional  references  to 
Henley,  who  also  admired  Cashel  Byron's  Profession.  Between 
Runciman,  who  had  known  Henley  and  quarrelled  with  him,  and 
Cashel  Byron,  Shaw  got  into  correspondence  with  Henley. 
Among  the  various  literary  and  artistic  Dulcineas  whose  cham- 
pionship Henley  mistook  for  criticism,  was  Mozart.  Mr.  Shaw 
thus  explained  the  situation  to  me: 

"  As  I  also  knew  Mozart's  value,  Henley  induced  me  to  write 
articles  on  music  for  his  paper,  the  Scots  Observer,  afterwards 
the  National  Observer;  and  I  did  write  some — not  more  than 
half  a  dozen- — perhaps  not  so  many.  Henley  was  an  impossible 
editor.  He  had  no  idea  of  criticism  except  to  glorify  the  mas- 
ters he  liked,  and  pursue  their  rivals  with  quixotic  jealousy.  To 
appreciate  Mozart  without  reviling  Wagner  was  to  Henley  a 
blank  injustice  to  Mozart.  Now,  he  knew  I  was  what  he  called 
a  Wagnerite,  and  that  I  thought  his  objections  to  Wagner 
vieux  jeu,  stupid,  ignorant  and  common.  Therefore  he  amused 
himself  by  interpolating  abuse  of  Wagner  into  my  articles  over 
my  signature.  Naturally  he  lost  his  contributor;  and  it  was 
highly  characteristic  of  him  that  he  did  not  understand  why 
he  could  not  get  any  more  articles  from  me.  At  the  same  time 
he  made  the  National  Observer  an  organ,  politically  and  so- 
cially, of  the  commonest  sort  of  plutocratic  and  would-be  aris- 
tocratic Toryism,  and  clamoured  in  the  usual  forcible-feeble 
way  for  the  strong  hand  to  '  put  down '  the  distress  which 
then — in  the  eighties — was  threatening  insurrection.  For  this 
sort  of  thing  I  had  no  mercy.     I  did  not  object  to  tall  talk 

2U 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

about  hanging  myself  and  my  friends  who  were  trying  to  get 
something  done  for  the  condition  of  the  people ;  but  what  moved 
me  to  utter  scorn  was  the  association  of  the  high  republican 
atmosphere  of  Byron,  Shelley  and  Keats,  and  the  gallantry 
of  Dumas  pere — another  idol  of  ours — with  the  most  dastardly 
class  selfishness  and  political  vulgarity.  When  Henley  at  last 
pressed  me  very  hard  for  another  article,  I  wrote  him  in  a  per- 
fectly friendly  but  frankly  contemptuous  strain,  chaffing  him 
rather  fiercely  as  the  master  of  his  fate,  the  captain  of  his  soul, 
with  his  head  bloody  but  unbowed,  and  his  hat  always  off 
to  the  police  and  the  upper  classes."  Shaw  always  believed 
that,  even  then,  Henley  was  simply  puzzled,  and  thought  Shaw 
was  only  making  a  senseless  literary  display  of  smartness  at 
his  expense. 

Clearly  Shaw  was  revolted  by  the  atrocious  vulgarity  of  Hen- 
ley's politics  as  contrasted  with  the  pretentiousness  of  his  lit- 
erary attitude.  The  defence  of  Henley  after  his  death,  to  the 
effect  that  he  knew  nothing  of  politics,  and  that  he  placed  him- 
self as  to  the  politics  of  the  paper  in  the  hands  of  his  friend 
Charles  Whibley,  disarmed  Shaw,  as  I  have  good  reason  to 
know.  For  Shaw  liked  Whibley  well  enough,  regarding  him 
as  a  clever  fellow  in  literary  matters,  but  quite  impossible  polit- 
ically. Opinions  similar  to  those  quoted  below  may  be  found 
in  the  only  criticism  Shaw  ever  wrote  of  Henley — a  review  of 
his  poems  in  the  old  Pall  Mall  Gazette  under  Mr.  Stead's  edi- 
torship. The  following  quotation  from  a  hitherto  unpublished 
letter  to  me  vividly  clarifies  the  whole  matter  by  defining  the 
grounds  of  Shaw's  criticism  of  Henley: 

"  Henley  interested  me  as  being  what  I  call  an  Eliza- 
bethan, by  which  I  mean  a  man  with  an  extraordinary  and 
imposing  power  of  saying  things,  and  with  nothing  what- 
ever to  say.  The  real  disappointment  about  his  much  dis- 
cussed article  on  Stevenson  was  not  that  he  said  spiteful 
things  about  his  former  friend,  but  that  he  said  nothing 
at  all  about  him  that  would  not  have  been  true  of  any  man 
in  all  the  millions  then  alive.  The  world  very  foolishly 
reproached  him  because  he  did  not  tell  the  usual  epitaph 

215 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

monger's  lies  about  '  Franklin,  my  loyal  friend.'  But  the 
real  tragedy  about  the  business  was  that  a  man  who  had 
known  Stevenson  intimately,  and  who  was  either  a  pene- 
trating critic  or  nothing,  had  nothing  better  worth  saying 
about  him  than  that  he  was  occasionally  stingy  about 
money  and  that  when  he  passed  a  looking-glass  he  looked 
at  it.  Which  Stevenson's  parlour-maid  could  have  told  as 
well  as  Henley  if  she  had  been  silly  enough  to  suppose  that 
the  average  man  is  a  generous  sailor  in  a  melodrama,  and 
totally  incurious  and  unconscious  as  to  his  personal  ap- 
pearance. But  it  was  always  thus  with  Henley.  He 
could  appreciate  literature  and  enjoy  criticism.  He  could 
describe  anything  that  was  forced  on  his  observation  and 
experience,  from  a  tom-cat  in  an  area  to  a  hospital  opera- 
tion. Give  him  the  thing  to  be  expressed,  and  he  could 
find  its  expression  wonderfully  either  in  prose  or  verse. 
But  beyond  that  he  could  not  go:  the  things  he  said — or 
the  things  he  wrote  (I  know  nothing  of  his  conversation) — 
are  always  conventionalities,  all  the  worse  because  they 
are  selected  from  the  worst  part  of  the  great  stock  of 
conventionalities — the  conventional  unconventionalisms. 
He  could  discover  and  encourage  talent,  and  was  thus  half 
a  good  editor,  but  he  could  not  keep  friends  with  it ;  and 
so  his  papers  finally  fell  through." 

As  in  the  case  of  his  obituary  notices  of  Sir  Augustus  Harris 
and  Sir  Henry  Irving,  Shaw  was  accused  of  nothing  short  of 
brutality  in  his  attitude  towards  Henley,  the  Cashel  Byronite 
who  had  wished  to  see  Shaw's  novel  dramatized.  In  the  first 
place,  Henley  admired  Shaw,  and  it  seemed  ungenerous  for 
Shaw  to  repay  him  by  a  denial  of  the  sort  of  talent  he  desired 
to  excel  in.  And  in  the  second  place,  it  seemed  to  Shaw's 
detractors  that  it  was  doubly  ungenerous  of  a  man  sound  in 
wind  and  limb  to  disparage  a  man  who  was  physically  a  wreck, 
fighting  bravely  against  infirmity  and  pain.  I  was  not  sur- 
prised to  find,  on  inquiring  of  Mr.  Shaw  his  real  feelings  and 
attitude  in  the  matter,  that  he  regarded  both  these  reasons  as 
absurd,  sentimental  and  pointless. 

216 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

"  People  have  a  strong  feeling,"  Mr.  Shaw  explained,  "  that 
if  a  man  has  lost  his  hearing  or  sight  bravely  in  a  noble  cause 
the  world  is  thereby  bound  in  decency  to  assume  for  ever  after 
that  he  had  the  eye  of  an  eagle  and  the  ear  of  a  hare."  He 
continued,  impressively :  "  I  have  never  belittled  a  misfortune 
in  that  way.  Long  ago,  when  a  blind  poet  died,  and  certain 
maudlin  speeches  of  his  were  repeated  in  print  as  expressions 
of  the  pathos  of  his  darkened  existence,  I  said,  also  in  print, 
that  he  always  said  these  things  when  he  was  drunk,  and  that 
the  fact  that  he  was  blind  may  have  added  to  the  pity  of  them, 
but  did  not  give  them  any  sort  of  validity. 

"  In  the  same  way  when,  in  the  European  revolutionary 
movement,  men  came  with  horrible  experiences  of  prison  and 
Siberian  wanderings  on  them,  and  women  whose  husbands  had 
been  hanged  or  committed  suicide,  I  have  always  had  to  stand 
out  against  the  notion  that  they  were  the  better  instead  of  the 
worse  for  their  misfortunes,  or  that  they  derived  any  credit 
or  authority  whatever  from  them.  Give  them  the  indulgence 
due  to  enforced  weakness  or  the  help  due  to  unavoidable  dis- 
tress ;  but  don't  make  them  heroes  and  leaders  ex-officio  because 
they  have  been  unlucky  enough  to  be  lamed. 

"  And  so,  I  have  often  conveyed  to  sentimental  people  an 
impression  of  revolting  callousness  simply  because  I  know  that 
suffering  is  suffering,  and  not  merely  the  acquisition  of  a  ro- 
mantic halo.  Henley's  infirmities  were  to  me  trifles  compared 
to  those  which  I  had  encountered  in  other  cases;  and  in  any 
case,  I  was  trained  to  look  in  the  face  the  fact  that  infirmities 
disable  people  instead  of  reinforcing  them.  People  who  learn 
in  suffering  what  they  teach  in  song  usually  give  very  dan- 
gerous lessons ;  and  I  admire  Henley  for  having  no  doctrine  of 
that  sort.  Besides,  I  have  always  abhorred  the  petty  disloyal- 
ties which  men  call  sparing  one  another's  feelings. 

"  To  make  an  end  of  the  matter,"  Mr.  Shaw  concluded, 
"  Henley,  though  a  barren  critic  and  poet,  had  enough  talent 
and  character  to  command  plenty  of  consideration.  A  man 
cannot  be  everything.  I  am  as  fond  of  music  as  Henley  was 
of  literature,"  he  added,  his  grey-blue  eyes  twinkling  brightly; 
"  but  I  am  the  worst  of  players,  and  have  a  very  poor  voice." 

217 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

The  opinion  that  Shaw's  art  during  this  period  is  less  inter- 
esting than  his  life  does  not  necessarily  involve  any  reflection 
upon  the  value  of  his  experience  as  an  art  critic  in  giving  di- 
rection and  tendency  to  the  subsequent  course  of  his  develop- 
ment. Indeed  Shaw  has  been  mainly  influenced  by  works  of  art 
in  his  artificial  culture:  he  has  always  been  more  consciously 
susceptible  to  music  and  painting  than  to  literature.  It  is  no 
idle  assertion — one  that  Shaw  is  fond  of  repeating — that  Mo- 
zart and  Michael  Angelo  count  for  a  great  deal  in  the  making 
of  his  mind.  And,  however  paradoxical  it  may  sound,  the 
English  dramatists  after  Shakespeare  are  practically  negligible 
as  concerning  their  influence  in  the  development  of  his  peculiar 
and  highly  specialized  dramatic  genius.  His  close  and  familiar 
daily  intercourse  with  the  music  masters  of  the  past ;  his  instant 
recognition  of  Wagner's  overwhelming  greatness ;  his  rapturous 
delight  in  that  king  of  music-dramatists,  Mozart;  his  dogged 
attempts,  alone  and  unaided,  to  master  the  difficulties  of  piano- 
forte playing,  which  eventuated  in  his  becoming  a  congenial, 
sympathetic  accompanist — all  early  marked  him  as  a  natural 
and  undiscouragedly  persistent  lover  of  music.  His  individual 
studies  of  Italian  art,  in  its  history  and  its  expression,  while 
he  was  still  in  his  teens,  his  frequent  visits  to  the  Dublin  Gal- 
lery, the  many  hours  passed  in  London  at  the  priceless  picture 
galleries  in  Trafalgar  Square  and  Hampton  Court,  testify  with 
equal  force  to  his  spontaneous  preoccupation  with  the  best  that 
has  been  thought  and  done  in  the  world  of  art.  It  would 
carry  one  too  far  afield  to  pursue  the  inquiry  as  to  what  in- 
fluence Michael  Angelo  might  possibly  have  exerted  upon  the 
dramas  of  Bernard  Shaw.  But  there  can  be  little  doubt  that 
what  Shaw  found  to  wonder  at  and  glorify  in  Michael  Angelo 
was  his  passion  for  anatomy,  his  devotion  to  the  studiously 
realistic,  and  his  unlimited  mastery  of  form  acquired  through 
"  profound  and  patient  interrogation  of  reality."  Shaw,  the 
close,  searching  student  of  life,  found  untold  inspiration  in  the 
discovery  of  the  genuinely  naturalistic  spirit  in  which  Michael 
Angelo  worked!  Words  he  once  used  in  speaking  to  me  of  the 
influence  of  Michael  Angelo  upon  his  art  are  very  illuminative. 
"  I  never  shall  forget  climbing  an  enormously  high,  rickety 

218 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

framework,  in  company  with  Anatole  France,"  he  remarked,  "  in 
order  to  get  a  closer  look  at  the  Delphic  Sibyl.  We  were  close 
enough  to  touch  it  with  our  hands;  and  I  was  surprised  to 
discover  that,  instead  of  losing,  it  gained  impressiveness  on 
nearer  view.  The  grand,  set  face  made  a  tremendous  impres- 
sion upon  me.  For  the  first  time,  I  fully  realized  that  Michael 
Angelo  was  a  great  artist,  and  a  great  man  as  well — because 
his  every  subject  is  a  person  of  genius.  He  never  had  a  com- 
monplace subject.  His  models  are  extraordinary  people. 
They  are  all  Supermen  and  Superwomen. 

"  Michael  Angelo,  you  see,"  he  continued,  "  taught  me  this — 
always  to  put  people  of  genius  into  my  works.  I  am  always 
setting  a  genius  over  against  a  commonplace  person." 

In  the  same  spirit,  Shaw  praised  Madox  Brown  as  a  realist, 
"  because  he  had  vitality  enough  to  find  intense  enjoyment  in 
the  world  as  it  really  is,  unbeautified,  unidealized,  untitivated 
in  any  way  for  artistic  consumption."  The  sad,  sensuous  day- 
dreams of  Rossetti,  the  gentlemanly  draughtsmanship  of  Leigh- 
ton,  the  whole  romantic  trend  of  English  art,  with  its  delicacy 
of  sentiment,  its  beauty-fancying,  its  reality-shirking  philoso- 
phy, found  Shaw  coldly,  cruelly  condemnatory.  "  Take  the 
young  lady  painted  by  Ingres  as  '  La  Source,'  for  example. 
Imagine  having  to  make  conversation  for  her  for  a  couple  of 
hours."  This  gives  the  tone  of  his  criticism.  His  deepest  scorn 
was  aroused  by  that  form  of  art  which  sets  up  "  decorative 
moral  systems  contrasting  roseate  and  rapturous  vice  with 
lilied  and  languorous  virtue,  making  '  Love '  face  both  ways 
as  the  universal  softener  and  redeemer."  The  artist  who  sought 
to  depict  life  with  perfect  integrity — in  Browning's  phrase,  "  to 
paint  man  man,  whatever  the  issue  " — the  artist  who  sought  to 
express  the  veracity  and  reality  of  life  rather  than  its  imagined 
beauty  and  poetry,  found  in  Shaw  an  unhesitating  champion. 
This  passion  for  unidealized  reality  was  the  outcome  of  long 
and  deliberate  study  of  art  works,  concerning  each  of  which 
Shaw  deliberately  forced  himself  to  form  an  intelligent  and 
conscious  estimate.  This  was  the  solid  residuum  of  his 
studies,  rescued  from  a  ruck  of  sophistication.  "  I  remember 
once  when  I  was  an  art  critic/'  wrote  Shaw  in  1897,  "  and 

219 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

when  Madox  Brown's  work  was  only  known  to  me  by  a  few 
drawings,  treating  Mr.  Frederick  Shields  to  a  critical  demon- 
stration of  Madox  Brown's  deficiencies,  pointing  out  in  one  of 
the  drawings  the  lack  of  '  beauty '  in  some  pair  of  elbows  that 
had  more  of  the  wash-tub  than  of  '  The  Toilet  of  Venus  '  about 
them.  Mr.  Shields  contrived  without  any  breach  of  good  man- 
ners to  make  it  quite  clear  to  me  that  he  considered  Madox 
Brown  a  great  painter  and  me  a  fool.  I  respected  both  con- 
victions at  the  time ;  and  now  I  share  them.  Only,  I  plead  in 
extenuation  of  my  folly  that  I  had  become  so  accustomed  to 
take  it  for  granted  that  what  every  English  painter  was  driv- 
ing at  was  the  sexual  beautification  and  moral  idealization  of 
life  into  something  as  unlike  itself  as  possible,  that  it  did  not  at 
first  occur  to  me  that  a  painter  could  draw  a  plain  woman  for 
any  other  reason  than  that  he  could  not  draw  a  pretty  one."  * 

Shaw  stood  forth  as  a  champion  of  all  forms  of  art — pic- 
torial, fictive  and  dramatic — which  aim  at  realistic  exposure 
of  the  sheer  facts  of  life  without  idealistic  falsification  and 
romantic  sublimation.  He  lauded  Madox  Brown,  for  example, 
as  he  lauded  Ibsen,  and  for  the  same  reason:  they  both  took 
for  their  themes  "  not  youth,  beauty,  morality,  gentility  and 
prosperity  as  conceived  by  Mr.  Smith  of  Brixton  and  Bays- 
water,  but  real  life  taken  as  it  is,  with  no  more  regard  for  poor 
Smith's  dreams  and  hypocrisies  than  the  weather  has  for  his 
shiny  silk  hat  when  he  forgets  his  umbrella."  It  is  no  matter 
for  surprise  that  the  unshirking  student  of  sociological  condi- 
tions should  have  chosen  to  write  Widowers'  Houses  and  Mrs. 
Warren's  Profession;  it  would  have  been  astounding  had  he 
not  done  so.  And  yet  the  catholicity  of  his  taste  in  art  en- 
abled him  to  realize,  not  simply  one  aspect  of  English  art,  but 
the  real  English  art-culture  of  to-day.  To  Shaw,  indeed,  the 
significance  of  the  modern  movement  in  England  had  its  germ 
in  the  growing  sense  of  the  "  naive  dignity  and  charm  "  of 
thirteenth-century  work,  in  a  passionate  affection  for  the  ex- 
quisite beauty  of  fifteenth-century  art.     "  The  whole  rhetorical 


*  Madox  Brown,  Watts,  and  Ibsen.    In  the  Saturday  Review,  March  13th, 
1897. 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

school  in  English  literature,  from  Shakespeare  to  Byron,"  he 
once  wrote,  "  appears  to  us  in  our  present  mood  only  another 
side  of  the  terrible  degringolade  from  Michael  Angelo  to 
Canova  and  Thorwaldsen,  all  of  whose  works  would  not  now 
tempt  us  to  part  with  a  single  fragment  by  Donatello,  or  even 
a  pretty  foundling  baby  by  Delia  Robbia."  He  maintained 
that  William  Morris  made  himself  the  greatest  living  master 
of  the  English  language,  both  in  prose  and  verse,  by  picking 
up  the  tradition  of  the  literary  art  where  Chaucer  left  it ;  that 
Burne-Jones  made  himself  the  greatest  among  English  deco- 
rative painters  by  picking  up  the  tradition  of  his  art  where 
Lippi  left  it,  and  utterly  ignoring  "  their  Raphaels,  Correggios 
and  stuff  " ;  and  that  Morris  and  Burne-Jones,  close  friends 
and  co-operators  in  many  a  masterpiece,  form  the  highest  aris- 
tocracy of  English  art  of  our  day.* 

The  only  controversial  question  that  came  up  during  Shaw's 
period  as  an  art  critic  was  raised  by  the  Impressionists ;  and 
his  reputation,  with  the  select  few,  for  consistency  is  sustained 
by  the  course  he  adopted.  He  recognized  Impressionism  as  a 
new  birth  of  energy  in  art,  a  movement  in  painting  which  was 
wholly  beneficial  and  progressive,  and  in  no  sense  insane  and 
decadent.  Despite  the  fact  that  the  movement,  like  all  new 
movements  in  art,  was  accompanied  by  many  absurdities — ex- 
hibition of  countless  daubs,  the  practice  of  optical  distortion, 
the  substitution  of  "  canvases  which  looked  like  enlargements 
of  obscure  photographs  for  the  familiar  portraits  of  masters 
of  the  hounds  in  cheerfully  unmistakable  pink  coats,  mounted 
on  bright  chestnut  horses  " — Shaw  supported  it  vigorously  be- 
cause, "  being  the  outcome  of  heightened  attention  and  quick- 
ened consciousness  on  the  part  of  its  disciples,  it  was  evidently 
destined  to  improve  pictures  greatly  by  substituting  a  natural, 
observant,  real  style  for  a  conventional,  taken-for-granted, 
ideal  one."  It  is  needless  to  say  that  Shaw  did  not  fall  into 
the  Philistine  trap  and  talk  "  greenery  yallery  "  nonsense  about 
Burne-Jones  and  the  pre-Raphaelite  school :  his  admiration  was 
checked  by  the  sternest  critical  reservations.     He  applauded 

*  Cf.  King  Arthur.     In  the  Saturday  Review,  January  19th,  1895. 

221 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  Impressionists  for  their  busy  study  of  the  atmosphere,  and 
of  the  relation  of  light  and  dark  between  the  various  objects 
depicted,  i.e.,  of  "  values."  Like  Zola  in  his  championship  of 
Monet,  Shaw  led  a  miniature  crusade  in  behalf  of  Whistler, 
whose  pictures  at  first  quite  naturally  amazed  people  accus- 
tomed to  see  the  "  good  north  light "  of  a  St.  John's  Wood 
studio  represented  at  exhibitions  as  sunlight  in  the  open  air — 
for  example,  Bouguereau's  "  Girl  in  a  Cornfield."  More  than 
this  need  not  be  said:  that  Shaw  never  joined  the  ranks  of  tjie 
moqueurs  who  called  Mr.  Whistler  "  Jimmy." 

It  is  worthy  of  record  that  Shaw  vigorously  and  ably  cham- 
pioned the  Dutch  school,  earnestly  advocating  the  claims  of 
James  Maris  as  a  great  painter ;  and  he  stood  up  for  Van  Uhde, 
not  only  in  defence  of  his  pictures  of  Christ  surrounded  by 
people  in  tall  hats  and  frock  coats,  but  also  in  favour  of  his 
excellent  painting  of  light  in  a  dry,  crisp,  diffused  way  then 
quite  unfashionable.  But  his  most  signal  art  criticism  of  the 
last  decade,  beyond  question,  has  had  to  do  with  photography. 
In  1901,  he  announced  that  "  the  conquest  by  photography  of 
the  whole  field  of  monochromatic  representative  art  may  be 
regarded  as  completed  by  the  work  of  this  year."  His  posi- 
tion is  based  on  the  dictum  that  "  in  photography,  the  draw- 
ing counts  for  nothing,  the  thought  and  judgment  count  for 
everything;  whereas  in  the  etching  and  daubing  processes 
where  great  manual  skill  is  needed  to  produce  anything  that 
the  eye  can  endure,  the  execution  counts  for  more  than  the 
thought."  This  is  no  new  or  sudden  notion,  derived  from  the 
study  of  some  photographic  exhibition,  but  the  mature  state- 
ment of  a  judgment  arrived  at  over  a  quarter  of  a  century  ago. 
In  An  Unsocial  Socialist,  Trefusis  astounds  Erskine  and  Sir 
Charles  Brandon  with  those  same  remarkable  views  on  photog- 
raphy which  to-day,  in  the  mouth  of  Bernard  Shaw,  so  delight 
the  patrons  of  the  Photographic  Salon.* 

"  It  is  more  than  twenty  years  since  I  first  said  in  print 
that    nine-tenths    (or    ninety-nine    hundredths,    I    forget 

*  Compare  Photography,  October  26th,  1909. 

222 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

which)  of  what  was  then  done  by  brush  and  pencil  would 
presently  be  done,  and  far  better  done,  by  the  camera. 
But  it  needed  some  imagination,  as  well  as  some  hardihood, 
to  say  this  at  that  time  .  .  .  because  the  photographers 
of  that  day  were  not  artists.  .  .  .  Let  us  admit  hand- 
somely that  some  of  the  elder  men  had  the  root  of  the 
matter  in  them  as  the  younger  men  of  to-day;  but  the 
process  did  not  then  attract  artists.  .  .  .  On  the  whole, 
the  process  was  not  quite  ready  for  the  ordinary  artist, 
because  (1)  it  could  not  touch  colour  or  even  give  colours 
their  proper  light  values;  (2)  the  Impressionist  movement 
had  not  then  rediscovered  and  popularized  the  great  range 
of  art  that  lies  outside  colour;  (B)  the  eyes  of  artists  had 
been  so  long  educated  to  accept  the  most  grossly  fictitious 
conventions  as  truths  of  representation  that  many  of  the 
truths  of  the  focussing  screen  were  at  first  repudiated  as 
grotesque  falsehoods;  (4)  the  wide-angled  lens  did  in  effect 
lie  almost  as  outrageously  as  a  Royal  Academician,  whilst 
the  anastigmat  was  revoltingly  prosaic,  and  the  silver 
print,  though  so  exquisite  that  the  best  will,  if  they  last, 
be  one  day  prized  by  collectors,  was  cloying,  and  only 
suitable  to  a  narrow  range  of  subjects;  (5)  above  all,  the 
vestries  would  cheerfully  pay  fifty  pounds  for  a  villainous 
oil-painting  of  a  hospitable  chairman,  whilst  they  consid- 
ered a  guinea  a  first-rate  price  for  a  dozen  cabinets,  and 
two-pound-ten  a  noble  bid  for  an  enlargement,  even  when 
the  said  enlargement  had  been  manipulated  so  as  to  be 
as  nearly  as  possible  as  bad  as  the  fifty  pound  painting. 
But  all  that  is  changed  nowadays.  Mr.  Whistler,  in  the 
teeth  of  a  storm  of  ignorant  and  silly  ridicule,  has  forced 
us  to  acquire  a  sense  of  tone,  and  has  produced  portraits 
of  almost  photographic  excellence;  the  camera  has  taught 
us  what  we  really  saw  as  against  what  the  draughtsman 
used  to  show  us ;  and  the  telephoto  lens  and  its  adaptations, 
with  the  isochromatic  plate  and  screen,  and  the  variety 
and  manageableness  of  modern  printing  processes,  have 
converted  the  intelligent  artists,  smashed  the  picture- 
fancying  critics,  and  produced  exhibitions  such  as  those 

223 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

now  open  at  the  Dudley  and  New  Galleries,  which  may 
be  visited  by  people  who,  like  myself,  have  long  since 
given  up  as  unendurable  the  follies  and  falsehoods,  the 
tricks,  fakes,  happy  accidents,  and  desolating  conventions 
of  the  picture  galleries.  The  artists  have  still  left  to 
them  invention,  didactics,  and  (for  a  little  while  longer) 
colour.  But  selection  and  representation,  covering  ninety- 
nine-hundredths  of  our  annual  output  of  art,  belong  hence- 
forth to  photography.  Someday  the  camera  will  do  the 
work  of  Velasquez  and  Peter  de  Hooghe,  colour  and  all; 
and  then  the  draughtsmen  and  painters  will  be  left  to 
cultivate  the  pious  edifications  of  Raphael,  Kaulbach, 
Delaroche,  and  the  designers  of  the  S.  P.  C.  K.  But  even 
then  they  will  photograph  their  models  instead  of  draw- 
ing them."  * 

In  a  paper  Maurice  Maeterlinck  wrote  for  Mr.  Alvin  Lang- 
don  Coburn,  who  kindly  gave  me  a  copy,  he  charges  art  with 
having  held  itself  aloof  from  "  the  great  movement  which  for 
half  a  century  has  engrossed  all  forms  of  human  activity  in 
profitably  exploiting  the  natural  forces  that  fill  heaven  and 
earth."  Maeterlinck  lauds  the  camera  as  an  instrument  of 
thought,  proclaiming  it  the  best  of  mediums,  because  it  serves 
"  to  portray  objects  and  beings  more  quickly  and  more  accu- 
rately than  can  pencil  or  crayon."  Just  as  Maeterlinck  con- 
cludes that  thought  has  at  last  found  a  fissure  through  which 
to  penetrate  the  mystery  of  this  anonymous  force  (the  sun), 
"  invade  it,  subjugate  it,  animate  it,  and  compel  it  to  say  such 
things  as  have  not  yet  been  said  in  all  the  realm  of  chiaroscuro, 
of  grace,  of  beauty  and  of  truth,"  so  Shaw  expresses  his  belief 
that  "  the  old  game  is  up,"  and  that  "  the  camera  has  hope- 
lessly beaten  the  pencil  and  paint-brush  as  an  instrument  of 
artistic  representation." 

Shaw  is  a  vigorous  champion  of  the  photographic  art  in  its 
integrity;  attempts  at  imitation  of  etching  or  painting  draw 
his  hottest  fire.     The  idea  of  sensitive  photographers  allowing 

*  The  Exhibitions— 1.,  by  G.  Bernard  Shaw.     In  the  Amateur  Photog- 
rapher, October  1st,  1901. 

224 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

themselves  to  be  bull-dozed  into  treating  painting,  not  as  an 
obsolete  makeshift  which  they  have  surpassed  and  superseded, 
but  as  a  glorious  ideal  to  which  they  have  to  live  up!!!  One 
day  Mr.  Shaw  was  showing  me  some  striking  examples  of  his 
own  photographic  work — a  remarkable  picture  of  Sidney  Webb, 
I  recall  in  especial,  an  effect  got  by  omitting  to  do  something 
in  taking  the  photograph.  Mr.  Shaw  remarked  that  some  of 
the  most  unique  and  fantastic  pictures  he  had  ever  taken  were 
the  results  of  accidents.  One  day,  for  instance,  he  spilled  some 
boiling  water  over  a  photograph  of  himself,  which  immediately 
converted  it  into  so  capital  an  imitation  of  the  damaged  parts 
of  Mantegna's  frescoes  in  Mantua  that  the  print  delighted  him 
more  in  its  ruin  than  it  had  in  its  original  sanity.  And,  in 
view  of  his  violently-expressed  detestation  of  photographic  imi- 
tation of  painting,  it  is  very  refreshing  to  hear  him  confess 
that  his  own  experience  as  a  critic  and  picture  fancier  had 
sophisticated  him  so  thoroughly,  that  "  those  accidental  imita- 
tions of  the  products  of  the  old  butter-fingered  methods  of 
picture-making  often  fascinate  me  so  that  I  have  to  put  forth 
all  my  strength  of  mind  to  resist  the  temptation  to  become  a 
systematic  forger  of  damaged  frescoes  and  Gothic  caricatures." 
Mr.  Shaw  was  harshly  ridiculed  and  sharply  censured  for 
permitting  the  exhibition  in  1906  of  a  nude  photograph  of 
himself  by  Alvin  Langdon  Coburn.  In  this  connection,  I  recall 
a  conversation  with  fiduard  J.  Steichen,  who  was  showing  me 
a  collection  of  his  masterly  prints,  including  several  nudes. 
The  faces  of  the  nude  figures  were  averted;  and  Steichen  told 
me,  with  a  laugh,  that  Shaw  had  ridiculed  him  unmercifully 
for  permitting  his  subjects  to  call  attention  to  their  embarrass- 
ment and  shame  by  averting  their  faces.  And  in  1901,  Mr. 
Shaw  wrote: 

"  The  camera  will  not  build  up  the  human  figure  into  a 
monumental  fiction  as  Michael  Angelo  did,  or  coil  it  cun- 
ningly into  a  decorative  one,  as  Burne-Jones  did.  But  it 
will  draw  it  as  it  is,  in  the  clearest  purity  or  the  softest 
mystery,  as  no  draughtsman  can  or  ever  could.  And  by 
the  seriousness  of  its  veracity  it  will  make  the  slightest 

225 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

lubricity  intolerable.  '  Nudes  from  the  Paris  Salon  '  pass 
the  moral  octroi  because  they  justify  their  rank  as  '  high 
art '  by  the  acute  boredom  into  which  they  plunge  the 
spectator.  Their  cheap  and  vulgar  appeal  is  nullified  by 
the  vapid  unreality  of  their  representation.  Photography 
is  so  truthful — its  subjects  are  so  obviously  realities,  and 
not  idle  fancies — that  dignity  is  imposed  on  it  as  effectu- 
ally as  it  is  on  a  church  congregation.  Unfortunately,  so 
is  that  false  decency,  rightly  detested  by  artists,  which 
teaches  people  to  be  ashamed  of  their  bodies;  and  I  am 
sorry  to  see  that  the  photographic  life  school  still  shirks 
the  faces  of  its  sitters,  and  thus  gives  them  a  disagreeable 
air  of  doing  something  they  are  ashamed  of."  * 

One  morning  in  Paris,  during  the  period  that  Shaw  was  sit- 
ting to  Rodin,  Coburn,  with  his  camera,  caught  Shaw  coming 
out  of  his  morning  bath;  whereupon  he  laughingly  bade  Shaw 
to  "  be  still  and  look  pleasant."  "  I  casually  assumed,  as  near 
as  I  could  recall  it,"  Mr.  Shaw  told  me,  "  the  pose  of  Rodin's 
'  Le  Penseur.9  It  was  all  done  in  a  moment,  and  although  I  am 
not  like  '  Le  Penseur,'  at  least  my  pose  is  not  unlike  his."  Mr. 
Shaw  permitted  the  photograph  to  be  put  on  exhibition  as  an 
object-lesson,  so  to  speak,  to  the  photographic  life  school;  as 
Steichen  expressed  it  to  me :  "  I  believe  Mr.  Shaw  wanted  to 
show  the  courage  of  his  convictions,  by  publicly  taking  the 
medicine  he  so  unhesitatingly  prescribed  for  others." 

It  is  needless  to  point  out  that  Bernard  Shaw,  the  analytic 
critic  and  clear  thinker  par  excellence,  would  naturally  prefer 
photography  to  painting.  When  away  from  London  he  is  sel- 
dom to  be  seen  without  a  camera  slung  over  his  shoulders ;  and 
he  has  been  taking  pictures,  and  dabbling  away  at  interesting 
photographic  experiments,  for  many  years.  Without  talent  as 
an  artist  himself,  but  with  almost  a  passion  for  photography, 
we  need  not  be  surprised  to  hear  him  praise  the  photographer 
because  he  is  free  of  "  that  clumsy  tool — the  human  hand — 
which   will    always    go    its    own    single   way,    and   no    other." 

*  The  Exhibitions — II.,  in  the  Amateur  Photographer,  October  18th,  1901. 

226 


THE  ART  CRITIC 

Steichen  and  Coburn,  he  has  told  me  and  he  has  told  them,  are 
the  two  greatest  photographers  in  the  world;  and  he  once  said 
to  me  of  Coburn :  "  Whenever  his  work  does  not  please  you, 
watch  and  pray  for  a  while  and  you  will  find  that  your  opinion 
will  change."  * 

To  Shaw  the  true  conquest  of  colour  no  longer  seems  far  off 
in  the  light  of  Lumiere's  discoveries,  and  the  day  will  soon  come, 
he  surmises,  when  work  like  that  of  Hals  and  Velasquez  may  be 
done  by  men  who  have  never  painted  anything  except  their  own 
nails  with  pyro.  "  As  to  the  painters  and  their  fanciers,  I 
snort  defiance  at  them;  their  day  of  daubs  is  over."  He  once 
declared  for  two  photographs  of  himself  against  anything  of 
Holbein,  Rembrandt,  or  Velasquez.  "  When  I  compare  their 
subtle  diversity  with  the  monotonous  inaccuracy  and  infirmity 
of  drawings,  I  marvel  at  the  gross  absence  of  analytic  power 
and  of  imagination  which  still  sets  up  the  works  of  the  great 
painters,  defects  and  all,  as  standard,  instead  of  picking  out 
the  qualities  they  achieved  and  the  possibilities  they  revealed, 
in  spite  of  the  barbarous  crudity  of  their  methods."  There  are 
certain  quite  definite  things  the  photographer  has  not  yet 
achieved:  Shaw's  imagination  as  a  creative  dramatist  teaches 
him  this,  even  though  he  insists  that  the  decisive  quality  in  a 
photographer  is  the  "  faculty  of  seeing  certain  things  and  be- 
ing tempted  by  them."  Oscar  Wilde  acutely  remarked  that  in 
certain  modern  portraits — Sargent's,  notably,  I  should  say — 
there  is  often  as  much  of  the  artist  as  of  the  subject.  Ber- 
nard Shaw  insists  that  in  the  pictorial  and  dramatic  phases 
of  the  photographic  art  of  the  future,  both  the  artist  and  the 
subject  must  be  imaginative  artists,  working  in  conjunction. 
"  As  to  the  creative,  dramatic,  story-telling  painters — Car- 
paccio,  and  Mantegna,  and  the  miraculous  Hogarth,  for  ex- 
ample— it  is  clear  that  photography  can  do  their  work  only 
through  a  co-operation  of  sitter  and  camerist  which  assimilates 
the  relations  of  artist  and  model  to  those  at  present  existing 
between  playwright  and  actor.  Indeed,  just  as  the  playwright 
is  sometimes   only   a  very  humble  employee   of  the  actor   or 

*  Compare    Shaw's    article,    Coburn    the    Camerist,   in    the   Metropolitan 
Magazine,  May,  1906. 

227 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

actress  manager,  it  is  conceivable  that  in  dramatic  and  didactic 
photography  the  predominant  partner  will  not  be  necessarily 
either  the  photographer  or  the  model,  but  simply  whichever 
of  the  twain  contributes  the  rarest  art  to  the  co-operation. 
Already  that  instinctive  animal,  the  public,  goes  into  a  shop 
and  says :  '  Have  you  any  photographs  of  Mrs.  Patrick  Camp- 
bell ?  '  and  not  '  Have  you  any  photographs  by  Elliott  and  Fry, 
Downey,  etc.,  etc.?'  The  Salon  is  altering  this,  and  photo- 
graphs are  becoming  known  as  Demachys,  Holland  Days, 
Horsley  Hintons,  and  so  forth,  as  who  should  say  Greuzes, 
Hoppners  and  Linnells.  But,  then,  the  Salon  has  not  yet 
touched  the  art  of  Hogarth.  When  it  does,  6  The  Rake's  Prog- 
ress '  will  evidently  depend  as  much  on  the  genius  of  the  rake 
as  of  the  moralist  who  squeezes  the  bulb,  and  then  we  shall  see 
what  we  shall  see." 


228 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 


"CORNO  DI  BASSETTO"  AND  "G.  B.  S." 

"  Don't  be  in  a  hurry  to  contradict  G.  B.  S.,  as  he  never  commits  himself 
on  a  musical  subject  until  he  knows  at  least  six  times  as  much  about  it  as 
you  do."— Music.    In  the  World,  January  18th,  1893. 


CHAPTER  VIII 

IN  1888  a  gentleman  described  in  the  World  at  that  time  as 
"  a  Chinese  statesman  named  Tay  Pay,"  *  founded  the 
Star,  claiming  for  it  the  distinction  of  the  first  and  only  half- 
penny paper,  and  ignoring  the  Echo,  which  early  succumbed  to 
the  treatment.  On  the  recommendation  of  Mr.  H.  W.  Massing- 
ham,  Shaw  was  placed  on  the  editorial  staff  as  leader  writer, 
on  the  second  day  of  the  paper's  existence.  At  that  time  the 
Fabian  Society  had  just  invented  the  municipal  modification  of 
Socialism  called  Progressivism ;  and  the  sole  object  of  Shaw, 
then  a  "  moderate  and  constitutional,  but  strenuous  Socialist," 
in  joining  the  Star  was  to  foist  this  new  invention  upon  it  as 
the  latest  thing  in  Liberalism.  Here  Shaw's  "  impossibilism  " 
broke  out  worse  than  ever ;  and  Mr.  O'Connor,  an  Irishman  too, 
and  a  skilled  journalist  in  the  bargain,  was  not  to  be  taken  in. 
He  refused  to  print  the  articles.  "  Then  the  Fabian  Society 
ordered  all  its  members  to  write  to  the  Star,"  records  Shaw, 
"  expressing  indignant  surprise  at  the  lukewarmness  of  its 
Liberalism  and  the  reactionary  and  obsolete  character  of  its 
views.  This  was  more  successful ;  the  paper  became  Progressive, 
and  London  rose  so  promptly  to  the  new  programme,  that  the 
first  County  Council  election  was  fought  and  won  on  it.  The 
Liberal  leaders  remonstrated  almost  daily  with  T.  P.,  being 
utterly  bewildered  by  what  was  to  them  a  most  dangerous 
heresy.  But  the  Star  articles  became  more  and  more  Pro- 
gressive, then  ultra-Progressive,  then  positively  Jacobin;  and 
the  further  they  went  the  better  London  liked  them.  They  were 
not,  I  beg  to  say,  written  by  me,  but  by  Mr.  H.  W. 
Massingham."  t 

*  Mr.  T.  P.  O'Connor. 

fin  speaking  of  his  first  appearance  as  a  journalistic  writer — in  a  "Lon- 
don Letter,"  written,  at  the  age  of  fifteen,  for  a  well-known  journal  in 
Scarborough — Max  Beerbohm  once  wrote   (the  Saturday  Review,  January 

231 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

While  the  Fabians  were  thus  engaged  in  "  collaring  the  Star 
by  this  stage  army  stratagem,"  Shaw,  to  the  utter  consterna- 
tion of  the  Chinese  statesman,  was  writing  political  leaders  for 
which  the  country  was  not  ripe  by  about  five  hundred  years, 
according  to  the  political  computation  of  the  eighties.  Too 
good-natured  to  do  his  duty  and  put  Shaw  out  summarily,  Tay 
Pay,  in  desperation,  proposed  that  Shaw  should  have  a  column 
to  himself,  to  be  headed  "  Music,"  and  to  be  "  coloured  by  occa- 
sional allusions  to  that  art."  It  was  with  a  gasp  of  relief  that 
he  heard  Shaw's  acceptance  of  the  proposition;  and  so  a  new 
career  opened  for  Shaw  as  "  Corno  di  Bassetto,"  *  a  "  person 
now  forgotten,  but  I  flatter  myself,  very  popular  for  a  couple 
of  years  in  the  Star." 

Among  Shaw's  colleagues  on  the  Star  at  this  time  were 
Clement  K.  Shorter  and  Richard  Le  Gallienne.  A.  B.  Walk- 
ley,  the  distinguished  dramatic  critic  of  the  London  Times,  was 
then  the  "  Star  man  "  in  the  theatres,  and  although  he  was 
more  fastidious  and  dignified  than  the  incorrigible  "  Bassetto," 
he  was  quite  as  amusing.  "  I  am  far  from  denying  that  a  man 
of  genius  may  make  even  a  newspaper  notice  of  the  Royal 
Academy  or  of  a  s  Monday  Pop.'  permanently  valuable  and 
delightful,"  Mr.  Archer  once  said ;  "  all  I  maintain  is  that  it 
assuredly  takes  a  man  of  genius  to  do  so.  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw 
.  .  .  has  to  my  thinking  a  peculiar  genius  for  bringing  day- 
by-day  musical  criticism  into  vital  relation  with  aesthetics  at 
large,  and  even  with  ethics  and  politics — in  a  word,  with 
life.    ..."     According  to  his  subsequent  confession,  "  The 

26th,  1901):  "I  well  remember  that  the  first  paragraph  I  wrote  was  in 
reference  to  the  first  number  of  the  Star,  which  had  just  been  published. 
Mr.  T.  P.  O'Connor,  in  his  editorial  prommciamento,  had  been  hotly  philan- 
thropic. *  If,'  he  had  written,  *  we  enable  the  charwoman  to  put  two  lumps 
of  sugar  in  her  tea  instead  of  one,  then  we  shall  not  have  worked  in  vain.' 
My  comment  on  this  was  that  if  Mr.  O'Connor  were  to  find  that  char- 
women did  not  take  sugar  in  their  tea,  his  paper  would,  presumably,  cease 
to  be  issued.  ...  I  quote  it  merely  to  show  that  I,  who  am  still  regarded 
as  a  young  writer,  am  exactly  connate  with  Mr.  Shaw.  For  it  was  in  this 
very  number  of  the  Star  that  Mr.  Shaw,  as  *  Corno  di  Bassetto,'  made  his 
first  bow  to  the  public."  This  latter  statement,  although  inaccurate,  is 
essentially  correct. 

*  The  name  of  a  musical  instrument  which  went  out  of  use  in  Mozart's 
time. 

232 


By  pet-mission  of~\ 


[the: Artistrand  "Vanity  Fair." 


"Magnetic,    he  has  the  power   to  infect  almost  everyone  with    the  delight  that 

he  takes  in   himself."      (Mr.  George   Bernard  Shaw.) 

A  Cartoon.     By  Max  Beerbohm. 


[Facing  p.  230 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

Star's  own  captious  critic,"  as  Shaw  was  denominated  at  the 
time,  used  the  word  music  in  a  platonically  comprehensive 
sense;  for  he  wrote  about  anything  and  everything  that  came 
into  his  head.  He  once  spoke  of  his  column  in  the  Star,  signed 
"  Corno  di  Bassetto,"  as  "  a  mixture  of  triviality,  vulgarity, 
farce  and  tomfoolery  with  genuine  criticism."  George  Henry 
Lewes'  style,  as  Mr.  Archer  has  shrewdly  observed,*  reminds 
one  of  that  of  "  Corno  di  Bassetto  " ;  but  the  dramatic  essays 
of  Lewes,  Shaw  freely  confesses,  are  miles  beyond  the  crudities 
of  Di  Bassetto,  although  the  combination  of  a  laborious  criti- 
cism with  a  recklessly  flippant  manner  is  the  same  in  both.  In- 
deed, Shaw's  column  in  the  Star  was  perhaps  the  most  startling 
evidence  of  the  insurgency  and  iconoclasm  of  the  New  Jour- 
nalism as  represented  by  the  Star,  its  foremost  exponent. 
Imagine  a  column  a  week  in  the  sprightly  vein  of  the  fol- 
lowing : 

"  I  warn  others  that  Offenbach's  music  is  wicked.  It  is 
abandoned  stuff:  every  accent  in  it  is  a  snap  of  the  fingers 
in  the  face  of  moral  responsibility,  every  ripple  and 
sparkle  on  its  surface  twits  me  for  my  teetotalism,  and 
mocks  at  the  early  rising  which  I  fully  intend  to  make  a 
habit  of  some  day.  ...  In  Mr.  Cellier's  scores,  music  is 
still  the  chastest  of  the  muses.  In  Offenbach's  she  is — 
what  shall  I  say? — I  am  ashamed  of  her.  I  no  longer 
wonder  that  the  Germans  came  to  Paris  and  suppressed 
her  with  fire  and  thunder.  Here  in  England  how  respect- 
able she  is !  Virtuous  and  rustically  innocent  her  six-eight 
measures  are,  even  when  Dorothy  sings,  '  Come,  fill  up 
your  glass  to  the  brim ' !  She  learned  her  morals  from 
Handel,  her  ladylike  manners  from  Mendelssohn,  her  sen- 
timent from  the  '  Bailiff's  Daughter  of  Islington.'  But 
listen  to  her  in  Paris,  with  Offenbach.  Talk  of  six-eight 
time :  why,  she  stumbles  at  the  second  quaver,  only  to  race 
off  again  in  a  wild  Bacchanalian,  Saturnalian,  petticoat 
spurning,  irreclaimable,  shocking  quadrille." 

*  In  his  introduction  to  the  Dramatic  Essays  of  John  Forster  and  George 
Henry  Lewes. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

No  more  accurate  characterization  of  the  work  of  Di  Bas- 
setto can  be  conceived  than  is  to  be  found  in  Shaw's  own  con- 
fession. He  secured  the  privileges  he  usurped,  he  says,  in  two 
ways :  first,  by  taking  care  that  "  Corno  di  Bassetto  "  should 
always  be  amusing;  and,  secondly,  by  using  a  considerable 
knowledge  of  music,  which  nobody  suspected  him  of  possessing, 
to  provide  a  solid  substratum  of  genuine  criticism  for  the  mass 
of  outrageous  levities  and  ridiculous  irrelevancies  which  were 
the  dramatic  characteristics  of  "  Bassetto."  "  I  daresay  these 
articles  would  seem  shabby,  vulgar,  cheap,  silly,  vapid 
enough  if  they  were  dug  up  and  exposed  to  the  twentieth  cen- 
tury light ;  but  in  those  days,  and  in  the  context  of  the  topics 
of  that  time,  they  were  sufficiently  amusing  to  serve  their 
turn."  * 

It  will  be  recalled  that  Shaw,  from  his  early  childhood,  had 
been  in  close  contact  with  the  best  that  had  been  thought,  felt, 
and  written  in  music.  It  was  his  practice  as  a  boy  to  whistle 
to  himself  the  operatic  themes  he  heard  continually  practised 
at  his  home,  precisely  as  a  street  gamin  whistles  the  latest  piece 
of  "  rag-time."  He  was  introduced  to  Wagner's  music  for 
the  first  time  by  hearing  a  second-rate  military  band  play  an 
arrangement  of  the  Tanrihauser  march.  He  thought  it  a  rather 
commonplace  plagiarism  from  the  famous  theme  in  Der 
Freischiltz.  This  boyish  impression  was  exactly  the  same  as 
that  recorded  of  the  mature  Berlioz,  who  was  to  Shaw  at  that 
time  the  merest  shadow  of  a  name  which  he  had  read  once  or 
twice.  Shaw  learned  his  notes  at  the  age  of  sixteen;  and  al- 
though for  a  long  time  thereafter  he  inflicted  untold  suffering 
on  his  neighbours,  he  became  in  time  quite  a  good  accompanist. 
In  the  early  days  in  London,  when  he  was  not  laboriously  writ- 
ing five  pages  a  day  on  one  of  his  novels,  Shaw  occasionally 
tried  his  hand  at  musical  composition,  at  writing  and  setting 
words  to  music.  I  have  before  me  now  a  folded  sheet  of  pink 
paper,  dated  "  23d  of  June,  1883,"  in  Shaw's  fine  handwriting, 
on  which  he  had  written  music  for  one  of  Shelley's  poems,  Ros- 
setti  edition,  Vol.  III.,  p.  107.     On  the  inside  of  the  folded 

*  In  the  Days  of  Our  Youth.     In  the  Star,  February  19th,  1906. 

234 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

sheet,  in  Shaw's  hand,  is  copied  the  poem,  headed  Lines, 
beginning : 

"When  the  lamp  is  shattered, 

The  light  in  the  dust  lies  dead; 
When  the  cloud  is  scattered, 
The  rainbow's  glory  is  shed; 

"When  the  lute  is  broken, 

Sweet  notes  are  remembered  not; 
When  the  lips  have  spoken, 
Loved  accents  are  soon  forgot" 

Shaw  was  deeply  interested  in  a  study  of  Wagner's  music,  and 
took  great  pains  in  studying  Wagner's  methods  of  composi- 
tion. I  have  seen  Shaw's  musical  notes  made  during  this 
period — sheets  of  stiff  paper  on  which  he  had  written  out  the 
musical  scores  of  the  various  distinct  leit  motifs  in  the  Wag- 
nerian operas — the  Ring  motive,  the  Rheingold  motive,  etc., 
etc. — with  fine  marginal  stenographic  notes  in  the  Pitman  sys- 
tem. He  once  made  quite  a  study  of  counterpoint;  and,  as 
we  learned  in  an  earlier  chapter,  acquired  a  grounding  in 
"  Temperament "  through  his  acquaintance  with  his  friend, 
James  Lecky.  When  Mr.  O'Connor  transferred  Shaw  from 
the  editorial  staff  to  the  post  of  musical  critic  for  the  Star, 
believing  that  he  could  do  no  great  harm  there,  his  wisdom  was 
justified  by  the  result.  All  his  experience  in  writing  and  criti- 
cism on  the  Star,  combined  with  his  early  knowledge  of  music, 
filled  Shaw's  hands  with  weapons.  And  when  Louis  Engel,  the 
"  best  hated  musical  critic  in  Europe,"  as  Shaw  calls  him,  found 
it  necessary  to  give  up  his  position  as  musical  critic  of  the 
World,  his  post  fell  to  "  Corno  di  Bassetto." 

At  the  time  when  Shaw  first  entered  the  lists  as  a  musical 
critic,  he  was  possessed  of  the  strongest  convictions  on  the  sub- 
ject of  music,  musicians,  and  true  musical  genius.  In  Love 
Among  the  Artists  Shaw  has  given  expression  to  his  decided 
views  concerning  the  pedantry  of  the  academic  schools,  the 
absurd  jargon  of  conventional  musical  criticism,  and  the 
vacuity  and  inconsequence  of  all  music,  based  on  method  alone, 
which  does  not  come  into  being  through  unaffected  enthusiasm 
for  art,  and  the  sincere  effort  towards  the  complete  realization 

235 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

of  personality.  The  musical  criticism  which  takes  the  analysis 
of  "Bach  in  B  minor"  as1  its  point  of  departure  is  there  held 
up  to  unmeasured  scorn.  It  seems  something  more  than  a 
coincidence  that  the  avoidance  of  this  very  subject,  with  all 
its  implications,  should  have  been  the  condition  on  which  Shaw 
began  his  career  as  a  critic  of  music.  In  connection  with  his 
appointment  as  musical  critic  of  the  Star,  Shaw  relates  this 
story  of  Mr.  O'Connor :  "  He  placed  himself  in  my  hands  with 
one  reservation  only.  '  Say  what  you  like,'  he  said ;  '  but  for — 
(here  I  omit  a  pathetic  Oriental  adjuration) — don't  tell  us 
anything  about  Bach  in  B  minor.'  It  was  a  bold  speech,  con- 
sidering the  superstitious  terror  in  which  the  man  who  has 
the  abracadabra  of  musical  technology  at  his  fingers'  end  holds 
the  uninitiated  editor;  but  it  conveyed  a  golden  rule."  Shaw 
was  in  perfect  accord  with  the  editor  in  the  belief  that  "  Bach 
in  B  minor  "  is  not  good  criticism,  not  good  sense,  not  inter- 
esting to  the  general  readers,  not  useful  to  the  student.  He 
fulfilled  his  part  of  the  contract  far  more  completely  than  the 
"  Chinese  statesman  "  had  any  right  to  expect.  Not  only  did 
Shaw  not  tell  us  anything  about  "  Bach  in  B  minor  " :  he  spent 
six  years  of  his  life  in  holding  the  practice  up  to  ridicule  and 
contempt ! 

Bernard  Shaw  brought  his  critical  faculty  to  bear  upon  music 
in  England  during  the  period  when  the  academic  faction  held 
full  sway.  There  was  a  large  reserve  of  native  musical  talent 
in  England  at  this  time,  but  it  found  nothing  like  full  scope  for 
its  development,  largely  because  of  the  commercial  pandering 
to  popular  taste.  The  so-called  masters  of  contemporary 
music  in  England  were  all  reared  on  the  methodology  of  the 
schools.  Dr.  Mackenzie,  the  Principal  of  the  Royal  Academy 
of  Music,  was  probably  the  leader  of  the  academic  faction. 
Sir  George  Grove,  author  of  that  standard  work,  the  Diction- 
ary of  Musicians,  was  an  honoured  figure  in  the  world  of  music. 
Dr.  Hubert  Parry,  at  the  height  of  his  creative  activity,  was 
writing  and  occasionally  conducting  his  oratorios,  such  as  Job 
and  Judith.  These  and  other  earlier  works  of  his — notably, 
L9 Allegro  ed  it  Pensieroso  and  Prometheus — Shaw  took  the  ut- 
most pleasure  in  declaring  to  be  "  without  any  merit  whatso- 

236 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

ever,"  or  "  the  most  conspicuous  failures,"  despite  their  fine 
feeling,  their  scrupulous  moderation,  and  other  pleasant  and 
perfectly  true  irrelevancies.  At  the  Albert  Hall,  Sir  Joseph 
Barnby,  Principal  of  the  Royal  Choral  Society,  in  his  measured 
and  complacent  style,  was  leading  those  huge,  lumbering  choirs 
which  are  still  the  pride  of  Great  Britain.  Villiers  Stanford, 
that  Irish  professor  ever  trifling  in  a  world  of  ideas,  was  writ- 
ing his  Eden,  and  other  works,  which  entitled  him  to  a  high 
place  in  the  councils  of  academicism.  Goring  Thomas,  for  his 
Golden  Web,  and  other  operas,  had  already  attained  a  posi- 
tion as  a  dramatic  composer,  which,  according  to  Shaw,  at 
least,  "  placed  the  production  of  an  opera  of  his  beyond  all 
suspicion  as  a  legitimate  artistic  enterprise."  Arnold  Dol- 
metsch,  that  rarely  fine  interpreter  of  ancient  music,  was 
giving  those  unique  viol  concerts  in  the  hall  of  Barnard's  Inn 
and  elsewhere  which  charmed  Arthur  Symons  yesterday  as  they 
charmed  Bernard  Shaw  long  ago.  Gilbert  and  Sullivan  had 
once  more  joined  forces  in  Utopia,  scoring  another  operatic 
triumph,  somewhat  less  decisive  and  conspicuous,  it  must  be 
confessed,  than  Pinafore,  The  Mikado  and  The  Pirates  of 
Penzance,  Cowen  was  winning  encomiums  as  a  conductor,  and 
Sterndale  Bennett  was  still  a  name  to  conjure  with.  To  the 
many,  Wagner,  like  Ibsen,  was  still  an  offensive  impostor.  But 
Ashton  Ellis's  exhaustive  task  of  translating  Wagner's  works 
was  slowly  proceeding;  and  Armbruster,  that  Bayreuth  exten- 
sion lecturer,  so  to  speak,  aided  by  Shaw  in  the  Star  and  in  the 
World,  was  paving  the  way  for  a  more  general  comprehension 
and  appreciation  of  Wagner  in  England.  Paderewski  was 
slowly  mounting  to  the  position  of  the  foremost  living  pianist, 
and  Patti  had  begun  to  give  her  "  Farewell  Concerts." 

In  musical  criticism,  as  in  all  other  phases  of  his  strangely 
diversified  career,  Shaw  is  essentially  a  revolutionary.  His  at- 
tack upon  Parry's  Job,  so  he  always  maintained,  threatened  to 
call  forth  a  great  national  protest!  He  fought  for  Wagner 
with  the  same  revolutionary  enthusiasm  which  enlisted  him  in 
the  cause  of  Ibsen — and  Shaw.  He  had  no  tolerance  for  any- 
thing traditional,  not  even  for  traditional  versions  of  old  airs, 
for  the  simple  reason  that  they  were  always  inaccurate.     So 

237 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

jealous  was  he  of  his  critical  sense,  for  fear  of  its  prostitution 
by  irrelevant  beauty  or  factitious  romance,  that  he  steadfastly 
steeled  himself  against  that  subtlest  of  all  forces  in  undermin- 
ing critical  integrity — personal  magnetism. 

Perhaps  the  simplest  way  to  arrive  at  a  comprehension  of 
Shaw,  the  critic  of  music,  is  by  taking  account  of  his  tastes  and 
aversions.  For  example,  Shaw  usually  viewed  Paderewski's 
performances,  at  the  time  when  the  Polish  pianist  was  first 
creating  such  sensations  in  England,  as  brutal  contests  between 
the  piano  and  the  pianist  to  settle  the  question  of  the  survival 
of  the  fittest.  The  following  description  of  his  sensations  on 
hearing  Paderewski  is  not  without  its  reminder  of  that  once 
popular  piece  de  recitation,  How  Ruby  Played*  "  The  con- 
certo was  over,  the  audience  in  wild  enthusiasm,  and  the  piano 
a  wreck.  Regarded  as  an  immensely  spirited  young  harmoni- 
ous blacksmith,  who  puts  a  concerto  on  the  piano  as  upon  an 
anvil,  and  hammers  it  out  with  an  exuberant  enjoyment  of  the 
swing  and  strength  of  the  proceeding,  Paderewski  is  at  least 
exhilarating ;  and  his  hammer  play  is  not  without  variety,  some 
of  it  being  feathery,  if  not  delicate.  But  his  touch,  light  or 
heavy,  is  the  touch  that  hurts;  and  the  glory  of  his  playing 
is  the  glory  that  attends  murder  on  a  large  scale  when  im- 
petuously done."  Three  years  later,  in  1893,  Shaw  has  reached 
the  conclusion  that  Paderewski  is  a  weak,  a  second-hand  com- 
poser, but  an  artist  whose  genuine  creative  achievements  have 
assured  him  the  title  of  the  greatest  of  living  pianists.  "  I 
had  rather  see  Paderewski  in  his  next  composition  for  or- 
chestra drop  the  piano  altogether,"  Shaw  said.  "  It  is  the 
one  instrument  he  does  not  understand  as  a  composer,  exactly 
because  he  understands  it  so  well  as  an  executant." 

For  David  Bispham  Shaw  had  the  sincerest  admiration,  and 
the  De  Reszkes  won  his  praise  because,  as  he  explained  it, 
they  sang  like  dignified  men,  instead  of  like  male  viragoes  in 
the  dramatic  Italian  style.  He  made  a  point  of  insisting,  how- 
ever, that  Edouard  de  Reszke  occasionally  abused  his  power  by 
"  wilful  bawling  "  for  the  mere  fun  of  making  a  thundering 

*The  reference  is  to  Rubinstein. 

238 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

noise.  On  hearing  Gerster  in  1890,  he  was  sufficiently  charmed 
to  say :  u  The  old  artistic  feeling  remained  so  unspoiled  and 
vivid  that,  if  here  and  there  a  doubt  crossed  me  whether  the 
notes  were  all  reaching  the  furthest  half-crown  seat  as  tell- 
ingly as  they  came  to  my  front  stall,  I  ignored  it  for  the  sake 
of  the  charm  which  neither  singer  nor  opera  (The  Huguenots) 
has  lost  for  me."  Of  a  concert  given  in  1893  by  "  our  still 
adored  Patti,"  whom  he  calls  "  now  the  most  accomplished  of 
mezzo-sopranos,"  he  gives  the  following  description: 

"It  always  amuses  me  to  see  that  vast  audience  (at 
Albert  Hall)  from  the  squares  and  villas  listening  with 
moist  eyes  whilst  the  opulent  lady  from  the  celebrated 
Welsh  castle  fervently  sings :  '  Oh,  give  me  my  lowly 
thatched  cottage  again.'  The  concert  was  a  huge  success : 
there  were  bouquets,  raptures,  effusions,  kissings  of  chil- 
dren, graceful  sharings  of  the  applause  with  obbligato 
players — in  short,  the  usual  exhibition  of  the  British 
bourgeoisie  in  the  part  of  Bottom  and  the  prima  donna 
in  the  part  of  Titania.  Patti  hazarded  none  of  her  old 
exploits  as  a  florid  soprano  with  an  exceptional  range: 
her  most  arduous  achievement  was  *  Ah,  fors  e  lui*  so 
liberally  transposed  that  the  highest  notes  in  the  rapid 
traits  were  almost  all  sharp,  the  artist  having  been  accus- 
tomed for  so  many  years  to  sing  them  at  a  higher  pitch. 
Time  has  transposed  Patti  a  minor  third  down,  but  the 
middle  of  her  voice  is  still  even  and  beautiful;  and  this 
with  her  unsurpassed  phrasing  and  that  delicate  touch 
and  expressive  nuance  which  make  her  cantabile  singing 
so  captivating,  enables  her  to  maintain  what  was,  to  my 
mind,  always  the  best  part  of  her  old  supremacy."  * 

Of  that  brilliant  executant  Essipoff,  the  wife  of  Leschetizky, 
Shaw  said  that  if  it  were  possible  to  believe  that  she  cared  two 
straws  about  what  she  played,  she  would  be  one  of  the  great- 
est executive  musicians  of  Europe.    Hollman  was,  on  the  whole 

*  Music,  signed  G.  B.  S.,  in  the  World,  June  7th,  1893. 

239 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

and  without  any  exception,  in  Shaw's  opinion,  the  greatest 
violoncellist  he  had  ever  heard.  Joachim's  fineness  of  tone, 
perfect  dignity  of  style,  and  fitness  of  phrasing  impressed  Shaw 
as  truly  magnificent;  and  when  he  heard  him  play  Bach's 
"  Chaconne  in  D  minor,"  he  confessed  that  he  came  as  near 
as  he  ever  came  to  calling  anything  done  by  mortal  artist  per- 
fect. Ysaye,  that  other  master-violinist,  moved  Shaw  as  much 
as  he  moved  Symons  by  the  perfectly  harmonious  blending  of 
his  every  faculty.  Shaw  smilingly  reminded  all  readers  of  the 
screed  of  G.  B.  S.  that  "  Decidedly,  if  Ysaye  only  perseveres 
in  playing  splendidly  to  us  for  twenty-five  years  more  or  so, 
it  will  dawn  on  us  at  last  that  he  is  one  of  the  greatest  of  living 
artists;  and  then  he  may  play  how  he  pleases  until  he  turns 
ninety  without  the  least  risk  of  ever  hearing  a  word  of  dis- 
paragement or  faint   praise." 

In  Shaw's  view,  Mozart  is  the  ideal,  the  supreme  composer. 
Again  and  again,  throughout  his  works,  Shaw  has  lavished  upon 
Mozart  the  finely-tempered  praise  of  the  clear-eyed  devotee. 
The  critical  rating  of  a  composer  is  overwhelmingly  impressive 
when  it  is  supported  by  the  avowal  of  personal  indebtedness; 
and  Shaw  has  frequently  asserted  that  Mozart  has  influenced 
his  dramatic  works  more  than  any  English  dramatist  since 
Shakespeare.  I  remember  discussing  Mozart  with  Mr.  Shaw 
one  day;  and  I  took  occasion  to  express  my  scepticism  as  to 
the  possibility  of  any  profound  influence  exerted  by  Mozart 
the  composer  upon  Shaw  the  dramatist.  "  In  a  certain  sense, 
Mozart  must  always  have  been  a  model  for  me,"  replied  Mr. 
Shaw.  "  Throughout  the  entire  period  of  my  career  as  a 
critic  of  music,  I  always  thought  and  wrote  of  Mozart  as  a 
master  of  masters.  The  dream  of  a  musician  is  to  have  the 
technique  of  Mozart.  It  was  not  his  c  divine  melodies  '  but  his 
perfect  technique  that  profoundly  influenced  me.  What  a 
great  thing  to  be  a  dramatist  for  dramatists,  just  as  Mozart 
was  a  composer  for  composers!  First,  and  above  all  things 
else,  Mozart  was  a  master  to  masters" 

The  second  part  of  Faust  impressed  Shaw  as  the  summit  of 
Schumann's  achievement  in  dramatic  music;  and  he  was  very 
ready  to  admit  that  Schumann  had  at  least  one  gift  which  has 

240 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

now  come  to  rank  very  high  among  the  qualifications  of  a  com- 
poser for  the  stage :  a  strong  feeling  for  harmony  as  a  means  of 
emotional  expression.  He  always  found  Brahms  to  be  insuf- 
ferably tedious  when  he  tried  to  be  profound,  but  delightful 
when  he  merely  tried  to  be  pleasant  and  naively  sentimental. 
"  Euphuism,  which  is  the  beginning  and  end  of  Brahms'  big 
works,"  Shaw  remarks  in  connection  with  the  "  Symphony  in 
E  minor,"  "  is  more  to  my  taste  in  music  than  in  literature. 
Brahms  takes  an  essentially  commonplace  theme;  gives  it  a 
strange  air  by  dressing  it  in  the  most  elaborate  and  far-fetched 
harmonies;  keeps  his  countenance  severely  (which  at  once  con- 
vinces an  English  audience  that  he  must  have  a  great  deal  in 
him)  ;  and  finds  that  a  good  many  wiseacres  are  ready  to  guar- 
antee him  as  deep  as  Wagner,  and  the  true  heir  of  Beethoven." 
Dvorak,  Bohemia's  most  eminent  creative  musician,  famed  alike 
for  an  inexhaustible  wealth  of  melodic  invention  and  a  rich 
variety  of  colouring,  is  stamped  by  Shaw  as  a  romantic  com- 
poser, and  only  that.  His  "  Requiem  "  Shaw  found  utterly 
tedious  and  mechanical,  while  his  "  Symphony  in  G  "  is  "  very 
nearly  up  to  the  level  of  a  Rossini  overture,  and  would  make 
excellent  promenade  music  at  the  summer  fetes."  The  an- 
nouncement of  a  Mass  by  Dvorak  affected  Shaw  very  much  as 
would  the  announcement  of  a  "  Divine  Comedy  "  in  ever  so 
many  cantos  by  Robert  Louis  Stevenson!  He  regarded  Verdi 
as  the  greatest  of  living  dramatic  composers ;  and  years  before 
Shaw  began  writing  musical  criticism,  when  Von  Biilow  and 
others  were  contemptuously  repudiating  Verdi,  Shaw  was  able 
to  discern  in  him  a  man  possessing  more  power  than  he  knew 
how  to  use,  or,  indeed,  was  permitted  to  use  by  the  old  operatic 
forms  imposed  on  him  by  circumstances.* 

For  the  solemnly  manufactured  operas  of  Saint  Saens,  Shaw 
felt  not  mere  distaste,  but  genuine  contempt.  As  soon,  in  fact, 
as  he  discovered  the  sort  of  thing  that  a  French  composer 
dreams  of  as  the  summit  of  operatic  achievement,  his  artistic 
sympathy  with  Paris  was  cut  off  at  the  main.  Early  in  his 
career,  he  solemnly  announces,  he  gave  up  Paris  as  impossible 

*  In  this  connection  compare  Shaw's  article :  A  Word  More  about  Verdi, 
in  the  Anglo-Saxon  Review,  Vol.  VIII.,  March,  1901. 

241 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

from  the  artistic  point  of  view !    His  characterization  of  French 
music  is  nothing  short  of  Heinesque. 

"  London  I  do  not  so  much  mind.  Your  average  Lon- 
doner is,  no  doubt,  as  void  of  feeling  for  the  fine  arts  as 
a  man  can  be  without  collapsing  bodily;  but,  then,  he  is 
not  at  all  ashamed  of  his  condition.  On  the  contrary,  he 
is  rather  proud  of  it,  and  never  feels  obliged  to  pretend 
that  he  is  an  artist  to  the  tips  of  his  fingers.  His  pre- 
tences are  confined  to  piety  and  politics,  in  both  of  which 
he  is  an  unspeakable  impostor.  It  is  your  Parisian  who 
concentrates  his  ignorance  and  hypocrisy,  not  on  politics 
and  religion,  but  on  art.  In  this  unwholesome  state  of 
self-consciousness  he  demands  statues  and  pictures  and 
operas  in  all  directions,  long  before  any  appetite  for 
beauty  has  set  his  eyes  or  ears  aching;  so  that  he  at  once 
becomes  the  prey  of  pedants  who  undertake  to  supply  him 
with  classical  works,  and  swaggerers  who  set  up  in  the 
romantic  department.  Hence,  as  the  Parisian,  like  other 
people,  likes  to  enjoy  himself,  and  as  pure  pedantry  is 
tedious  and  pure  swaggering  tiresome,  what  Paris  chiefly 
loves  is  a  genius  who  can  make  the  classic  voluptuous  and 
the  romantic  amusing.  And  so,  though  you  cannot  walk 
through  Paris  without  coming  at  every  corner  upon  some 
fountain  or  trophy  or  monument  for  which  the  only  pos- 
sible remedy  is  dynamite,  you  can  always  count  upon  the 
design  including  a  female  figure  free  from  the  defect  known 
to  photographers  as  under-exposure;  and  if  you  go  to 
the  opera — which  is,  happily,  an  easily  avoidable  fate — 
you  may  wonder  at  the  expensive  trifling  that  passes  as 
musical  poetry  and  drama,  but  you  will  be  compelled  to 
admit  that  the  composer  has  moments,  carried  as  far  as 
academic  propriety  admits,  in  which  he  rises  from  sham 
history  and  tragedy  to  genuine  polka  and  barcarolle; 
whilst  there  is,  to  boot,  always  one  happy  half-hour  when 
the  opera-singers  vanish,  and  capable,  thoroughly  trained, 
hard-working,  technically  skilled  executants  entertain  you 
with  a  ballet.    Of  course  the  ballet,  like  everything  else  in 

242 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

Paris,  is  a  provincial  survival,  fifty  years  behind  English 
time;  but  still  it  is  generally  complete  and  well  done  by 
people  who  understand  ballet,  whereas  the  opera  is  gen- 
erally mutilated  and  ill  done  by  people  who  don't  under- 
stand opera." 

Is  it  any  wonder,  then,  that  the  "  tinpot  stage  history  "  of 
Saint  Saens  was  the  bane  of  Shaw's  existence  and  the  abomi- 
nation of  his  critical  sense?  Or  that  Offenbach's  music  struck 
him  as  wicked,  abandoned  stuff?  And  of  Meyerbeer,  then  still 
regarded  in  Paris  as  a  sort  of  Michael  Angelo,  he  says :  "  If 
you  try  to  form  a  critical  scheme  of  the  development  of  Eng- 
lish poetry  from  Pope  to  Walt  Whitman,  you  cannot  by  any 
stretch  of  ingenuity  make  a  place  in  it  for  Thomas  Moore, 
who  is  accordingly  either  ignored  in  such  schemes  or  else  con- 
temptuously dismissed  as  a  flowery  trifler.  In  the  same  way, 
you  cannot  get  Meyerbeer  into  the  Wagnerian  scheme  except 
as  the  Autolycus  of  the  piece." 

The  most  significant  feature  of  Shaw's  career  as  a  musical 
critic  was  his  championship  of  Wagner.  Although  he  had  an 
exalted  admiration  for  Wagner,  he  was  no  hero-worshipper,  nor 
in  the  least  degree  blind  to  the  defects  of  Wagner  as  a  com- 
poser who  failed  to  preserve  philosophic  continuity  and  co- 
herence in  his  greatest  dramatic  achievement.  The  similarity 
of  tastes  in  music  between  Wagner  and  Shaw  is  a  very  notice- 
able feature  of  the  "  C.  di  B."  and  "  G.  B.  S."  criticisms.  It 
was  to  be  expected  that  Shaw  the  dramatist  would  admire  Wag- 
ner for  composing  music  designed  to  heighten  the  expression 
of  human  emotion;  he  realized  fully  that  such  music  was  in- 
tensely affecting  in  the  presence  of  that  emotion,  and  utter 
nonsense  apart  from  it.  Like  Wagner,  Shaw  had  a  deep  love 
for  Beethoven,  an  intense  admiration  for  Mozart,  and  a  sincere 
appreciation  of  the  Mendelssohn  of  the  Scotch  symphony.  And 
he  likewise  shared  Wagner's  sovereign  contempt  for  the  efforts 
of  Schumann  and  Brahms  to  be  "  profound." 

A  German  would  laugh  at  the  notion  that  Wagner  required 
any  "  championing "  during  the  years  from  1888  to  1894 
inclusive,  since  the  Bayreuth  performances  began  in  1876.   The 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

chief  novelty  in  Shaw's  Wagner  criticisms  was  his  attack  on 
Bayreuth  for  the  various  old-fashioned  absurdities  perpetrated 
there — the  inadequacy  of  mise  en  scene,  the  ridiculous  un- 
naturalness  and  inappropriateness  of  scenery  and  dress,  and 
the  retention  in  leading  parts  of  "  beer-barrels  of  singers  " 
who  did  not  know  how  to  sing.  The  result  of  Shaw's  first  visit, 
in  1889,  was  an  article  on  Bayreuth  for  the  English  Illustrated 
Magazine;  a  later  visit  produced  an  illustrated  article  in  the 
Pall  Mall  Budget.  Besides  this,  both  visits  were  reported  day 
by  day  by  Shaw  in  the  Star,  over  his  signature,  "  Corno  di 
Bassetto,"  or  "  C.  di  B."  Up  to  that  time,  in  Shaw's  opinion, 
Bayreuth  criticism  had  been  either  worship  or  blasphemy.  "  I 
threw  off  all  this,  and  criticized  performances  of  Wagner's 
works  at  Bayreuth  precisely  as  I  should  have  criticized  per- 
formances of  Wagner's  works  at  Covent  Garden.  The  effect 
on  pious  Wagnerians  was  as  though  I  had  brawled  in 
church." 

In  his  relation  of  musical  critic  in  England,  Shaw  took  the 
greatest  pains  to  ascertain  the  exact  bearings  of  the  contro- 
versy which  had  raged  round  Wagner's  music-dramas  since  the 
middle  of  the  century.  The  six  years  of  Shaw's  activity  as  a 
musical  critic  fell  within  the  decade  of  Sir  Augustus  Harris's 
greatest  operatic  enterprises.  Shaw  spent  a  large  part  of  his 
time  in  making  onslaught  after  onslaught  on  the  "  spurious 
artistic  prestige  "  of  Covent  Garden.  For  some  seasons  he  was 
forced  to  pay  for  his  own  stall;  and  there  were  times,  Shaw 
says,  when  "  I  was  warned  that  my  criticisms  were  being  col- 
lated by  legal  experts  for  the  purpose  of  proving  '  prejudice ' 
against  me,  and  crushing  me  by  mulcting  my  editor  in  fabu- 
lous sums.  .  .  .  The  World  proved  equal  to  the  occasion  in 
the  conflict  with  Covent  Garden,  and,  finally,  my  invitations 
to  the  opera  were  renewed;  the  impresario  made  my  personal 
acquaintance,  and  maintained  the  pleasantest  relations  with  me 
from  that  time  onward.  .  .  ."  It  is  true  that  Jean  de  Reszke 
made  his  first  appearance  on  any  stage  on  July  13th,  1889, 
as  the  hero  of  Die  Meister singer;  but  it  infuriated  Sir  Augus- 
tus Harris  to  be  publicly  reminded  by  Shaw  that  Tristan  and 
Isolde,  having  been  composed  in  1859,  was  perhaps  a  little 

244 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

overdue.  Indeed,  it  was  not  until  1896  that  Tristcm  and  Isolde 
at  last  made  its  way  into  the  repertory  of  Royal  Italian  Opera 
in  England.  Shaw  exhausted  himself,  in  the  columns  of  the 
World,  in  "  apparently  hopeless  attempts  to  shame  the  De  Resz- 
kes  out  of  their  perpetual  Faust  and  Mephistopheles,  Romeo  and 
Laurent,  and  in  pooh-poohed  declarations  that  there  were  such 
works  in  existence  as  Die  Walkiire  and  Tristan.  It  was  not  Sir 
Augustus  Harris  who  roused  Jean  de  Reszke  from  his  long 
lethargy,  but  his  own  artistic  conscience  and  the  shock  of 
Vandyk's  brilliant  success  in  Massenet's  Manon"  And  when 
Shaw's  successor  on  the  World,  on  the  occasion  of  the  death 
of  Sir  Augustus  Harris  in  1896,  declared  that  the  great  im- 
presario laboured  to  cast  aside  the  fatuous  conventions  of  the 
Italian  school,  and  to  adopt  all  that  was  best  in  the  German 
stage,  Shaw  was  provoked  into  a  crushing  reply.  "  Sancta 
simplicitas!  "  he  exclaimed.  "  The  truth  is  that  he  fought 
obstinately  for  the  Italian  fatuities  against  the  German  re- 
forms. He  was  saturated  with  the  obsolete  operatic  traditions 
of  the  days  of  Tietjens,  whose  Semiramide  and  Lucrezia  he 
admired  as  great  tragic  impersonations.  He  described  Das 
Rheingold  as  6  a  damned  pantomime ' ;  he  persisted  for  years 
in  putting  Tannhauser  on  the  stage  with  Venusberg  effects  that 
would  have  disgraced  a  Whitechapel  Road  gaff,  with  the 
twelve  horns  on  the  stage  replaced  by  a  military  band  behind 
the  scenes,  and  with  Rotten  Row  trappings  on  the  horses.  .  .  . 
It  was  only  in  the  last  few  years  that  he  began  to  learn  some- 
thing from  Calve  and  the  young  Italian  school,  from  Wagner, 
from  Massenet  and  Bruneau,  and  from  Verdi's  latest  works. 
In  opera,  unfortunately,  he  was  soaked  in  tradition,  and  kept 
London  a  quarter  of  a  century  behind  New  York  and 
Berlin — down    almost    to    the    level    of    Paris — in    dramatic 


music. 


»  * 


It  happens  that  Shaw's  squarest  and  solidest  contributions 
to  Wagnerian  criticism  were  written  after  his  career  as  musical 
critic  ceased.  At  the  request  of  Mr.  Benjamin  Tucker,  editor 
of  Liberty,  a  journal  of  Philosophic  Anarchy,  published  in 

*  De  Mortuis,  signed  G.  B.  S.,  in  the  Saturday  Review,  July  4th,  1896. 

245 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

New  York,  Shaw  wrote  a  reply  to  Max  Nordau's  Degeneration, 
which  was  then  (1895)  making  a  great  impression  on  the 
American  mind.  This  reply,  entitled  A  Degenerate's  View  of 
Nordau,  was  published  in  a  double  copy  of  Liberty,  especially 
printed  to  make  room  for  it ;  Mr.  Tucker  sent  a  copy  to  every 
paper  in  America;  and,  as  Shaw  avers,  Nordau's  book  has 
never  been  heard  of  in  an  American  paper  since.  It  was  un- 
doubtedly a  great  piece  of  journalism  in  those  days  for  Mr. 
Tucker  to  pick  out  the  right  man — as  Shaw  unquestionably 
was — for  that  stupendous  task;  and  Shaw  still  takes  an  un- 
holy joy  in  showing  how  Tucker  the  crank  was  able  to  beat 
all  the  big  fashionable  editors  at  their  own  game.  Besides 
being  largely  imported  in  England,  the  article  did  Shaw  a 
great  private  service.  For  when  William  Morris  read  it,  he 
at  once  threw  off  all  reserve  in  talking  to  Shaw  about  modern 
art,  and  treated  him  thenceforth  as  a  man  who  knew  enough 
to  understand  what  might  be  said  to  him  on  that  subject.  The 
article  contained,  among  many  other  equally  able  things,  an 
eminently  sane  and  intelligible  treatment  of  the  development 
of  modern  music,  and  its  relation  to  Wagner.  Mr.  Huneker, 
who  regards  this  as  Shaw's  finest  piece  of  controversial  work, 
rightly  declared  that  it  completely  swept  Nordau  from  the 
field  of  discussion.* 

The  other  piece  of  Wagnerian  criticism  by  which  Shaw  is 
best  known  was  the  subject  of  a  letter  Shaw  once  wrote  to  the 

*  In  the  letter  Mr.  Tucker  wrote  to  Mr.  Shaw  at  Easter,  1895,  Shaw 
once  told  me,  he  said  that  he  knew  Shaw  was  the  only  man  in  the  world 
capable  of  tackling  Nordau  on  his  various  fields  of  music,  literature,  paint- 
ing, etc.:  "He  said  that  if  I  would  find  out  the  highest  figure  ever  paid 
by,  say,  the  Nineteenth  Century  for  a  single  article  to  any  writer,  not  ex- 
cluding Gladstone  or  any  other  eminent  man,  he  would  pay  me  that  sum 
for  a  review  of  *  Degeneration '  for  his  little  paper.  This,  mind  you,  from 
a  man  who  was  publishing  a  paper  at  his  own  expense,  without  a  chance  of 
making  anything  out  of  it,  and  with  a  considerable  chance  of  finding  him- 
self in  prison  some  day  for  telling  the  truth  about  American  institutions. 
Mr.  Tucker  probably  worked  double  shifts  and  ate  half  meals  for  the  next 
two  or  three  years  to  pay  off  what  the  adventure  cost  him."  This  essay, 
somewhat  amplified,  was  recently  (February,  1908)  published  in  America 
by  Benjamin  R.  Tucker,  N.  Y. — in  England  by  the  New  Age  Press,  Lon- 
don— under  the  title,  The  Sanity  of  Art:  on  Exposure  of  the  Current 
Nonsense  about  Artists  being  Degenerate. 

246 


Bernard  Partridge.  Courtesy  of  the  Artist. 

AHENOBARBUS    AT    REHEARSAL. 

Reproduced  from  the  original    water-color,  drawn  from  memory,  in  1894. 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

editor  of  the  'Academy  (October  15th,  1895)  :  "  I  see  you  have 
been  announcing  a  book  by  me  entitled,  '  The  Complete  Wag- 
nerite,'  "  writes  Shaw.  "  This  is  an  error ;  you  are  thinking 
of  an  author  named  Izaak  Walton.  The  book,  which  is  a  work 
of  great  merit,  even  for  me,  is  called,  '  The  Perfect  Wag- 
nerite,'  and  is  an  exposition  of  the  philosophy  of  Der  Ring  des 
Nibelungen.  It  is  a  G.  B.  eSsence  of  modern  Anarchism,  or 
Neo-Protestantism.  This  lucid  description  speaks  for  itself. 
As  it  has  been  written  on  what  the  whole  medical  faculty  and 
all  the  bystanders  declare  to  be  my  death-bed,  it  is  naturally 
rather  a  book  of  devotion  than  one  of  those  vain  brilliancies 
which  I  was  wont  to  give  off  in  the  days  of  my  health  and 
strength. — P.  S.  I  have  just  sprained  my  ankle  in  trying  to 
master  the  art  of  bicycling  on  one  foot.  This,  with  two  opera- 
tions and  a  fall  downstairs,  involving  a  broken  arm,  is  my 
season's  record  so  far,  leaving  me  in  excellent  general  condi- 
tion. And  yet  they  tell  me  a  vegetarian  can't  recuperate !  " 
In  this  commentary  to  what  had  already  been  written  by 
"  musicians  who  are  no  revolutionists,  and  revolutionists  who 
are  no  musicians,"  Shaw  reads  into  Wagner  far  more  Social- 
ism than  he  had  ever  read  into  Ibsen.  He  took  pains  to  base 
his  interpretation  upon  the  facts  of  Wagner's  life — his  connec- 
tion with  the  revolution  of  1848,  his  association  with  August 
Roeckel  and  Michael  Bakounin,  his  later  pamphlets  on  social 
evolution,  religion,  life,  art,  and  the  influence  of  riches — rather 
than  upon  his  recorded  utterances  in  regard  to  the  specific 
meanings  of  the  "  Ring "  music-dramas.  It  is  not  difficult 
to  recognize,  with  Shaw,  the  portraiture  of  our  capitalistic 
industrial  system  from  the  Socialist  point  of  view  in  the  slav- 
ery of  the  Niblungs  and  the  tyranny  of  Alberich:  but  little 
significance  attaches  to  such  cheap  symbolism.  It  is  more 
difficult  to  identify  the  young  Siegfried  with  the  anarchist 
Bakounin  on  the  strength  of  the  latter's  notorious  pamphlet 
demanding  the  demolition  of  existing  institutions.  To  the  Ring 
of  the  Niblimgs,  Shaw  has,  so  to  speak,  applied  the  Ibsenic- 
Nietzschean-Shavian  philosophy  as  a  unit  of  measure,  and 
found  it  to  apply  at  many  points.  Siegfried  is  a  "  totally  un- 
moral person,  a  born  Anarchist,  the  ideal  of  Bakounin,  an 

247 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

anticipation  of  the  6  overman '  of  Nietzsche  " — a  Germanized 
Dick  Dudgeon  or  a  Teutonic  Prometheus.  Whenever  the  phi- 
losophy of  the  "  Ring  "  diverges  from  the  Shavian  philosophy, 
Wagner  was  "  wandering  in  his  mind."  Whenever  his  own 
explanations  do  not  agree  with  the  idee  fixe  of  Shaw,  they  only 
prove,  as  was  once  claimed  by  Shaw  in  the  case  of  Ibsen,  that 
Wagner  was  far  less  intellectually  conscious  of  his  purpose 
than  Shaw.  As  an  exposition  of  the  Shavian  philosophy,  the 
book  is  worthy  of  note;  as  an  exposition  of  the  Wagnerian 
philosophy,  it  is  unconvincing.  The  book  is  exceedingly  in- 
genious and  in  places,  brilliant;  but  it  is  the  work  of  an  ideo- 
logue and  an  a-priorist. 

One  final  word  in  regard  to  Shaw's  position  as  a  champion 
of  Wagner.  While  it  is  of  little  importance  now,  still  Wagner 
and  anti-Wagner  was  the  great  controversy  of  that  time  in 
music  until  anti-Wagnerism  finally  became  ridiculous  in  the 
face  of  Wagner's  overwhelming  popularity.  In  the  same  way, 
Ibsen  and  anti-Ibsen  was  the  great  controversy  in  drama  in 
London  after  1889.  In  both  instances,  the  whirligig  of  time 
has  brought  round  its  revenges.  For  some  years,  even  before 
his  death,  Ibsen  stood  unchallenged  as  the  premier  dramatist 
of  the  age.  And  now  that  Wagner's  battle  is  won  and  over- 
won,  Shaw  has  the  profound  gratification  of  seeing  "  the  pro- 
fessors, to  avert  the  ridicule  of  their  pupils,  compelled  to 
explain  (quite  truly)  that  Wagner's  technical  procedure  in 
music  is  almost  pedantically  logical  and  grammatical;  that 
the  Lohengrin  prelude  is  a  masterpiece  of  the  '  form  '  proper  to 
its  aim ;  and  that  his  disregard  of  4  false  relations,'  and  his  free 
use  of  the  most  extreme  discords  without  '  preparation,'  were 
straight  and  sensible  instances  of  that  natural  development  of 
harmony  which  has  proceeded  continually  from  the  time  when 
common  six-four  chords  were  considered  '  wrong,'  and  such 
free  use  of  unprepared  dominant  sevenths  and  minor  ninths  as 
had  become  common  in  Mozart's  time  would  have  seemed  the 
maddest  cacophony."  And  in  a  letter  to  me,  Mr.  Shaw  said 
(July  15th,  1905)  :  "  I  was  on  the  right  side  in  both  instances: 
that  is  all.  According  to  the  Daily  Chronicle,  Wagner  and 
Ibsen  were  offensive  impostors.     As  a  matter  of  fact,  they 

243 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

were  the  greatest  living  masters  in  their  respective  arts;  and 
I  knew  that  quite  well.  The  critics  of  the  nineteenth  century- 
had  two  first-rate  chances — Ibsen  and  Wagner.  For  the  most 
part  they  missed  both.  Second  best  they  could  recognize;  but 
best  was  beyond  them."  * 

Mr.  Shaw's  most  recent  incursion  into  the  field  of  music 
criticism  was  occasioned  by  a  criticism  of  Richard  Strauss' 
Elektra,  at  the  time  of  its  first  production  in  England  in 
March,  1910,  from  the  pen  of  the  well-known  critic  of  music, 
Mr.  Ernest  Newman.  The  vigorous  controversy  between  Mr. 
Shaw  and  Mr.  Newman  that  ensued  was,  of  course,  quite  in- 
conclusive, so  far  as  erecting  any  absolute  standards  by  which 
Strauss'  greatness  as  a  dramatic  composer  might  be  judged. 
But  it  evoked  from  Mr.  Shaw  an  outburst  of  enthusiasm  un- 
paralleled in  his  career  as  a  critic  of  music: 

"  What  Hofmannsthal  and  Strauss  have  done  is  to  take 
Clytemnestra  and  Aegistheus,  and  by  identifying  them 
with  everything  that  is  evil  and  cruel,  with  all  that  needs 
must  hate  the  highest  when  it  sees  it,  with  hideous  domi- 
nation and  coercion  of  the  higher  by  the  baser,  with  the 
murderous  rage  in  which  the  lust  for  a  lifetime  of  orgi- 
astic pleasure  turns  on  its  slaves  in  the  torture  of  its 
disappointment  and  the  sleepless  horror  and  misery  of  its 
neurasthenia,  to  so  rouse  in  us  an  overwhelming  flood  of 
wrath  against  it  and  ruthless  resolution  to  destroy  it,  that 
Elektra's  vengeance  becomes  holy  to  us;  and  we  come  to 
understand  how  even  the  gentlest  of  us  could  wield  the 
axe  of  Orestes  or  twist  our  firm  fingers  in  the  black  hair 
of  Clytemnestra  to  drag  back  her  head  and  leave  her 
throat  open  to  the  stroke. 

"  That  was  a  task  hardly  possible  to  an  ancient  Greek. 

*  Is  Shaw,  the  anti-romantic,  consistent  in  championing  Wagner,  the 
head  and  front  of  European  romanticism?  Shaw,  the  individualist,  recog- 
nized that  Wagner  was  a  great  creative  force  in  art;  that  was  sufficient 
cause  for  his  championship.  It  may  be  interesting  in  this  connection  to 
consult  Julius  Bab's  acute  analysis  of  Shaw's  Wagnerism:  Bernard  Shaw 
(S.  Fischer,  Berlin),  pp.  210-214. 

849 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

.  .  .  And  that  is  the  task  which  Hofmannsthal  has  achieved. 
Not  even  in  the  third  scene  of  Das  Rheingold,  or  in  the 
Klingsor  scenes  in  Parsifal,  is  there  such  an  atmosphere 
of  malignant  and  cancerous  evil  as  we  get  here.  And  that 
the  power  with  which  it  is  done  is  not  the  power  of  the 
evil  itself,  but  of  the  passion  that  detests  and  must  and 
finally  can  destroy  that  evil,  is  what  makes  the  work 
great,  and  makes  us  rejoice  in  its  horror.  .    .    . 

"  That  the  power  of  conceiving  it  should  occur  in  the 
same  individual  as  the  technical  skill  and  natural  faculty 
needed  to  achieve  its  complete  and  overwhelming  expres- 
sion in  music,  is  a  stroke  of  the  rarest  good  fortune  that 
can  befall  a  generation  of  men.  I  have  often  said,  when 
asked  to  state  the  case  against  the  fools  and  money- 
changers who  are  trying  to  drive  us  into  a  war  with  Ger- 
many, that  the  case  consists  of  the  single  word,  Beethoven. 
To-day,  I  should  say  with  equal  confidence,  Strauss. 
That  we  should  make  war  on  Strauss  and  the  heroic  war- 
fare and  aspiration  that  he  represents  is  treason  to  hu- 
manity. In  this  music-drama  Strauss  has  done  for  us 
just  what  he  has  done  for  his  own  countrymen:  he  has 
said  for  us,  with  an  utterly  satisfying  force,  what  all  the 
noblest  powers  of  life  within  us  are  clamouring  to  have 
said,  in  protest  against  and  defiance  of  the  omnipresent 
villainies  of  our  civilization;  and  this  is  the  highest 
achievement  of  the  highest  art."  * 

So  often  was  Shaw  mocked  by  scepticism  concerning  his 
talent  and  by  imperviousness  to  his  mood,  that  he  sometimes 
actually  went  to  the  length  of  tagging  one  of  his  Irish  bulls 
with  the  explanatory  parenthesis  ("I  speak  as  an  Irishman  "). 
If  the  larger  public  ever  gains  a  just  understanding  of  Shaw, 
it  will  be  because  they  have  found  this  central  and  directing 
clue:  he  speaks  as  an  Irishman.  The  right  to  say  in  jest  what 
is  meant  in  earnest  is  a  right  the  average  Englishman  denies; 
he  agrees  with  Victor  Hugo  that  "  every  man  has  a  right  to  be 

*  The  '  Elektra '  of  Strauss  and  Hofmannsthal.  A  letter  to  the  editor  of 
the  Nation  (London),  March  19th,  1910. 

250 


w     - 
O      c 

O     « 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

a  fool,  but  he  should  not  abuse  that  right."  M.  Faguet  has 
recently  said  of  Sainte  Beuve  that  he  was  guided  by  one  of  the 
finest  professional  consciences  the  world  of  literature  has  ever 
known.  Early  in  his  career,  Shaw  succeeded  in  imparting  to 
his  readers  the  conviction  that  his  glaring  deficiency  was  the 
total  lack  of  a  professional  conscience.  Shaw  was  preoccu- 
pied with  the  exposition  of  the  eternal  comedy.  He  is  that 
hitherto  unknown  phenomenon  in  the  history  of  musical  criti- 
cism— a  musical  critic  who  charged  his  critical  weapon  with 
genuine  comic  force.  The  conviction  has  probably  come  to 
every  musical  critic  in  some  moment  of  self-distrust  that  his 
effort  to  catch  and  imprison  in  written  words  the  elusive  spirit 
of  music  is,  after  all,  only  a  more  or  less  humorous  subterfuge. 
In  this  respect  Shaw  differs  from  every  other  musical  critic  who 
ever  lived:  instead  of  feeling  his  criticism  to  be  merely  a  hu- 
morous subterfuge,  he  actually  believed  it  to  be  a  comically 
veracious  impression  of  reality. 

No  view  of  Shaw's  unique  attitude  as  a  critic  has  yet  been 
obtained  that  is  not  one-sided,  false,  or — what  is  far  worse — 
misleading.  The  absurdly  simple  truth  is  that  Shaw  always 
aimed  at  saying,  in  the  most  forcible  and  witty  way  possible, 
exactly  what  he  thought  and  felt,  however  absurd,  unnatural, 
or  comic  these  criticisms  might  sound  to  the  "  poor,  silly,  sim- 
ple public."  To  the  feelings  of  other  musical  critics,  to  the 
prejudices  of  the  dry  academic  schools,  or  even  to  the  con- 
sensus of  opinion,  crystallized  through  the  lapse  of  years,  he 
paid  no  heed  whatsoever.  He  did  not  feel  himself  bound  by 
the  traditions  of  any  journal,  by  any  obligations,  fancied  or 
real,  to  operatic  managers,  or  by  the  predilections  of  his 
audience.  In  fact,  to  put  it  in  a  homely  way,  he  was  "  his  own 
man,"  feeling  free  to  express  his  opinions  exactly  as  he  chose. 
And  it  is  perhaps  no  exaggeration  to  say  that,  since  1885,  the 
whole  spirit  of  English  criticism,  personified  in  Walkley, 
Archer  and  Shaw — an  Englishman  of  French  descent,  a 
Scotchman,  and  an  Irishman — has  been  a  spirit  of  forthright- 
ness,  outspoken  frankness  and  unblushing  sincerity. 

In  the  matter  of  individual  style,  Shaw  occupies  an  abso- 
lutely unique  position  in  English  literature.     He  occupied  a 

251 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

more  unusual  terrain  than  had  ever  been  occupied  before.  Con- 
cerning the  subjects  in  which  he  claimed  to  be  thoroughly 
versed,  he  gaily  announced  himself  as  an  authority.  With  an 
air  of  grandiose  condescension,  he  once  confessed  that  he  might 
be  mistaken :  "  Even  I  am  not  infallible — that  is,  not  always." 
He  really  meant  that  he  was.  "  Let  it  be  remembered,  that  I 
am  a  superior  person,"  he  characteristically  says,  "  and  that 
what  seemed  incoherent  and  wearisome  fooling  to  me  may  have 
seemed  an  exhilarating  pastime  to  others.  My  heart  knows 
only  its  own  bitterness;  and  I  do  not  desire  to  intermeddle 
with  the  joys  of  those  among  whom  I  am  a  stranger.  I  assert 
my  intellectual  superiority — that  is  all."  He  was  ever  sub- 
limely conscious  of  his  own  supreme  dialectical  and  critical 
skill.  "  Some  day  I  must  write  a  supplement  to  Schumann's 
'  Advice  to  Young  Musicians.'  The  title  will  be  '  Advice  to 
Old  Musicians  ' ;  and  the  first  precept  will  run,  '  Don't  be  in 
a  hurry  to  contradict  G.  B.  S.,  as  he  never  commits  himself  on 
a  musical  subject  until  he  knows  at  least  six  times  as  much 
about  it  as  you  do.'  "  If  he  had  been  matched  in  argument 
with  the  greatest  living  critic  of  the  arts — and  he  was  fre- 
quently matched  against  the  greatest  English  critics — he  would 
doubtless  have  said  to  him,  in  the  language  of  the  apochryphal 
anecdote :  "  All  the  world's  mad  save  thee  and  me,  John.  And 
sometimes  I  think  thee's  a  little  mad  too." 

Behind  all  this  "  infernal  blague "  lurks  the  real  critic, 
whose  chief  conviction  is  that  "  Bach  in  B  minor  "  is  not  fit 
subject  for  enjoyment  or  criticism.  "I  would  not  be  misun- 
derstood," Mr.  Shaw  remarked  to  me  one  day,  "  in  regard  to 
my  position  about  analysis!  and  '  analytic  criticism.'  The 
analytic  criticism  I  mercilessly  condemn  is  the  sort  of  criticism 
of  Hamlet's  soliloquy  that  reads :  '  It  is  highly  significant,  in 
the  first  place,  that  Hamlet  begins  his  soliloquy  with  the  in- 
finitive of  the  verb  "  To  be,"  etc.,  etc'  Far  from  minimizing 
the  function  of  analysis  sanely  and  appropriately  employed 
in  criticism,  I  attribute  my  superiority  as  a  critic  to  my  supe- 
riority in  the  faculty  of  analysis."  The  inevitable  reaction 
from  "  absolute  music  "  was  the  dramatic  expression  of  indi- 
viduality, e.g.,  Wagner.     The  inevitable  reaction  from  "  ana- 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

lytic  criticism  "  is  the  critical  expression  of  individuality,  e.g., 
Shaw.  He  never  hunted  out  false  relations,  consecutive  fifths 
and  sevenths,  the  first  subject,  the  second  subject,  the  working 
out,  and  all  the  rest  of  "  the  childishness  that  could  be  taught 
to  a  poodle."  His  supreme  effort  was  to  get  away  from  a 
discussion  of  the  technology  of  music  to  the  nuances  of  the 
music  itself,  the  source  of  its  inspiration,  the  spirit  of  its 
genius.  If  Shaw  should  find  Wagner  an  offensive  charlatan 
and  his  themes  cacophonous  strings  of  notes,  he  would  frankly 
say  so,  without  making  any  effort  to  'prove  him  so  by  laying 
down  the  first  principles  of  character  and  composition,  and 
showing  that  his  conduct  and  his  works  are  incompatible  with 
these  principles.  The  expert,  in  Shaw's  view,  should  merely 
give  you  his  personal  opinion  for  what  it  is  worth.  Shaw 
protested  against  the  whole  academic  system  in  England,  and 
declared  himself  its  open  enemy.  "  This  unhappy  country 
would  be  as  prolific  of  musical  as  of  literary  composers  were 
it  not  for  our  schools  of  music,  where  they  seize  the  young 
musician,  turn  his  attention  forcibly  away  from  the  artistic 
element  in  his  art,  and  make  him  morbidly  conscious  of  its 
mechanical  conditions,  especially  the  obsolete  ones,  until  he 
at  last  becomes,  not  a  composer,  but  an  adept  in  a  horribly 
dull  sort  of  chess  played  with  lines  and  dots,  each  player  hav- 
ing different  notions  of  what  the  right  rules  are,  and  playing 
his  game  so  as  to  flourish  his  view  under  the  noses  of  those 
who  differ  from  him.  Then  he  offers  his  insufferable  gambits 
to  the  public  as  music,  and  is  outraged  because  I  criticize  it  as 
music  and  not  as  chess." 

Shaw  made  the  most  persistent  effort  to  encourage 
the  employment  of  the  vernacular  in  music,  as  well  as 
in  criticism  of  music.  An  arrant  commonplace,  made  out 
of  the  most  hackneyed  commonplace  in  modern  music, 
pleased  him  more  than  all  the  Tenterden  Street  special- 
ties. "  I  cry  '  Professor '  whenever  I  find  a  forced  avoid- 
ance of  the  vernacular  in  music  under  the  impression  that  it 
is  vulgar.  .  .  .  Your  men  who  really  can  write,  your  Dickenses, 
Ruskins  and  Carlyles,  and  their  like,  are  vernacular  above  all 
things :  they  cling  to  the  locutions  which  everyday  use  has  made 

253 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

a  part  of  our  common  life.  The  professors  may  ask  me 
whether  I  seriously  invite  them  to  make  their  music  out  of  the 
commonplaces  of  the  comic  song  writer?  I  reply,  unabashed, 
that  I  do." 

With  the  deepest  fervour,  he  continued  to  preach  the  doc- 
trine of  spontaneity  and  naturalness.  "  Why  hesitate  to  per- 
petrate the  final  outrage  of  letting  loose  your  individuality, 
and  saying  just  what  you  think  in  your  own  way  as  agreeably 
and  frankly  as  you  can?  "  His  own  aim  was  to  reach  that 
truly  terrible  fellow,  the  average  man — "  the  plain  man  who 
wants  a  plain  answer."  If  he  can  only  awake  the  attention 
of  the  man  in  the  street  and,  by  expressing  himself  frankly  in 
everyday  language,  the  quotidian  commerce  of  thought,  occa- 
sionally even  in  the  vernacular  of  the  street,  make  clear  to  that 
man  the  appeal  that  music  makes  to  a  critic  acutely  sensitive 
to  the  subtler  implications  of  its  highest  forms,  Shaw  is  per- 
fectly satisfied  with  himself  and  his  performance.  Accordingly, 
he  aimed,  primarily,  to  make  an  exact  record  of  the  sensations 
induced  by  a  certain  piece  of  music,  or  a  certain  performer, 
Don  Juan  or  De  Reszke,  Letty  Lind  or  The  Pirates  of  Pen- 
zance. He  made  no  effort  whatsoever  to  control  the  current 
of  his  humour.  He  allowed  it  to  play  as  lightly  about  Patti, 
as  uproariously  about  Paderewski,  as  derisively  about  Vieux- 
temps  as  his  inclination  directed.  The  most  solemn  symphony 
excited  his  risibility  to  the  explosion  point,  and  the  latest  Mass 
suggested  seaside  promenades  instead  of  the  life  of  the  world 
to  come. 

Shaw's  efforts  to  free  musical  criticism  from  the  blighting 
effects  of  academicism,  his  advocacy  of  the  free  expression  of 
individuality,  and  his  insistence  upon  the  return  to  nature,  both 
in  music  and  in  criticism,  brought  upon  him  the  scorn  and 
contempt  that  is  always  the  meed  of  the  would-be  reformer. 
The  French  public  looked  up  to  Francisque  Sarcey  with  a  sort 
of  filial  veneration,  and  affectionately  dubbed  him  "  uncle." 
The  English  public  sneered  at  Shaw's  brilliant  attacks  upon 
their  favourites  and  their  idols,  and  looked  down  upon  him, 
not  as  a  reasonable  human  being,  but,  as  Shaw  expressed  it,  as 
a  mere  Aunt  Sally.     Not  only  did  the  critics  and  the  public 

254> 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

laugh  at  his  revolutionary  zeal,  but  they  regarded  him  as  an 
amusing  incompetent,  availing  himself  of  his  abundant  gift 
of  humour  to  supply  the  deficiency  of  any  knowledge  of  music 
or  of  the  possession  of  the  faintest  critical  sense.  Analytic 
criticism  was  revered,  while  the  individual  and  impressionistic 
style  of  Shaw  was  immoderately  enjoyed  as  the  tricky  device 
of  a  colossal  humbug.  Shaw  fought  against  misrepresentation 
and  prejudice  with  unabated  vigour,  continually  confounding 
his  critics  with  some  unanswerable  argument  that  logically  re- 
duced their  attacks  to  nothingness.  By  apt  examples,  he  often 
revealed  the  absurdities  of  analytic  criticism  in  literature,  once 
confronting  his  critics  with  the  startling  query :  "  I  want  to 
know  whether  it  is  just  that  a  literary  critic  should  be  for- 
bidden to  make  his  living  in  this  way  on  pain  of  being  inter- 
viewed by  two  doctors  and  a  magistrate,  and  haled  off  to 
Bedlam  forthwith;  whilst  the  more  a  musical  critic  does  it,  the 
deeper  the  veneration  he  inspires.  By  systematically  neglect- 
ing it  I  have  lost  caste  as  a  critic  even  in  the  eyes  of  those  who 
hail  my  abstinence  with  the  greatest  relief;  and  I  should  be 
tempted  to  eke  out  these  columns  in  the  MesOpotamian  manner 
if  I  were  not  the  slave  of  a  commercial  necessity  and  a  vulgar 
ambition  to  have  my  articles  read,  this  being  the  main  reason 
why  I  write  them,  and  the  secret  of  the  constant  '  straining 
after  effect '  observable  in  my  style." 

Perhaps  the  most  enlightening  evidence  as  to  Shaw's  posi- 
tion as  a  critic  of  music  is  contained  in  his  recital  of  an  amus- 
ing incident.  One  day,  it  seems,  a  certain  young  man,  whose 
curiosity  overswayed  his  natural  modesty,  approached  Shaw  on 
the  subject  of  the  G.  B.  S.  column  in  the  World.  "  At  last  he 
came  to  his  point  with  a  rush  by  desperately  risking  the  ques- 
tion: 'Excuse  me,  Mr.  G.  B.  S.,  but  do  you  know  anything 
about  music?  The  fact  is,  I  am  not  capable  of  forming  an 
opinion  myself;  but  Dr.  Blank  says  you  don't,  and — er — Dr. 
Blank  is  such  a  great  authority  that  one  hardly  knows  what 
to  think.'  Now  this  question  put  me  into  a  difficulty,  because 
I  had  already  learnt  by  experience  that  the  reason  my  writings 
on  music  and  musicians  are  so  highly  appreciated  is  that  they 

255 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

are  supposed  by  many  of  my  greatest  admirers  to  be  a  huge 
joke,  the  point  of  which  lies  in  the  fact  that  I  am  totally 
ignorant  of  music,  and  that  my  character  of  critic  is  an  ex- 
quisitely ingenious  piece  of  acting,  undertaken  to  gratify  my 
love  of  mystification  and  paradox.  From  this  point  of  view 
every  one  of  my  articles  appears  as  a  fine  stroke  of  comedy, 
occasionally  broadening  into  a  harlequinade,  in  which  I  am 
the  clown,  and  Dr.  Blank  the  policeman.  At  first  I  did  not 
realize  this,  and  could  not  understand  the  air  of  utter  disil- 
lusion and  loss  of  interest  in  me  that  would  come  over  people 
in  whose  houses  I  incautiously  betrayed  some  scrap  of  ama- 
teurish enlightenment.  But  the  naive  exclamation,  '  Oh !  you 
do  know  something  about  it,  then ! '  at  last  became  familiar 
to  me ;  and  I  now  take  particular  care  not  to  expose  my  knowl- 
edge. When  people  hand  me  a  sheet  of  instrumental  music,  and 
ask  my  opinion  of  it,  I  carefully  hold  it  upside  down,  and 
pretend  to  study  it  in  that  position  with  the  eye  of  an  expert. 
They  invite  me  to  try  their  new  grand  piano,  I  attempt  to  open 
it  at  the  wrong  end;  and  when  the  young  lady  of  the  house 
informs  me  that  she  is  practising  the  'cello,  I  innocently  ask 
her  whether  the  mouthpiece  did  not  cut  her  lips  dreadfully  at 
first.  This  line  of  conduct  gives  enormous  satisfaction,  in 
which  I  share  to  a  rather  greater  extent  than  is  generally 
supposed.  But,  after  all,  the  people  whom  I  take  in  thus  are 
only  amateurs.  To  place  my  impostorship  beyond  question,  I 
require  to  be  certified  as  such  by  authorities  like  our  Bachelors 
and  Doctors  of  Music — gentlemen  who  can  write  a  '  Nunc 
Dimittis  '  in  five  real  parts,  and  know  the  difference  between 
a  tonal  fugue  and  a  real  one,  and  can  tell  you  how  old  Monte- 
verde  was  on  his  thirtieth  birthday,  and  have  views  as  to  the 
true  root  of  the  discord  of  the  seventh  on  the  supertonic,  and 
devoutly  believe  that  si  contra  fa  diabolus  est.  But  I  have 
only  to  present  myself  to  them  in  the  character  of  a  man  who 
has  been  through  these  dreary  games  without  ever  discovering 
the  remotest  vital  connection  between  them  and  the  art  of 
music — a  state  of  mind  so  inconceivable  by  them — to  make 
them  exclaim: 

256 


THE  MUSIC  CRITIC 

"* Preposterous  ass!  that  never   read  so   far 
To  know  the  cause  why  music  was  ordained,' 

and  give  me  the  desired  testimonials  at  once.  And  so  I  manage 
to  scrape  along  without  falling  under  suspicion  of  being  an 
honest  man. 

"  However,  since  mystification  is  not  likely  to  advance  us  in 
the  long  run,  may  I  suggest  that  there  must  be  something 
wrong  in  the  professional  tests  which  have  been  successfully 
applied  to  Handel,  to  Mozart,  to  Beethoven,  to  Wagner,  and 
last,  though  not  least,  to  me,  with  the  result  in  every  case  of 
our  condemnation  as  ignoramuses  and  charlatans.  Why  is  it 
that  when  Dr.  Blank  writes  about  music,  nobody  but  a  pro- 
fessional musician  can  understand  him;  whereas  the  man-in- 
the-street,  if  fond  of  art  and  capable  of  music,  can  understand 
the  writings  of  Mendelssohn,  Wagner,  Liszt,  Berlioz,  or  any 
of  the  composers?  Why,  again,  is  it  that  my  colleague,  W.  A., 
for  instance,  in  criticizing  Mr.  Henry  Arthur  Jones'  play  the 
other  day,  did  not  parse  all  the  leading  sentences  in  it?  I  will 
not  be  so  merciless  as  to  answer  these  questions  now,  though 
I  know  the  solution,  and  am  capable  of  giving  it  if  provoked 
beyond  endurance.  Let  it  suffice  for  the  moment  that  writing 
is  a  very  difficult  art,  criticism  a  very  difficult  process,  and 
music  not  easily  to  be  distinguished,  without  special  critical 
training,  from  the  scientific,  technical  and  professional  condi- 
tions of  its  performance,  composition  and  teaching.  And  if  the 
critic  is  to  please  the  congregation,  who  wants  to  read  only 
about  the  music,  it  is  plain  that  he  must  appear  quite  beside 
the  point  to  the  organ-blower,  who  wants  to  read  about  his 
bellows,  which  he  can  prove  to  be  the  true  source  of  all  the 
harmony."  * 

*  Music,  in  the  World,  February  18th,  1893. 


257 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 


Mac 

Beth. 

Oth 

Ello. 

Comedy  of  Er 

Rors. 

Merchant  of  Ve 

Nice. 

Coriol 

Anus. 

Midsummer  Night's  D 

Ream. 

Merry  Wives  of  Win 

Dsor. 

Measure  for  Mea 

Sure. 

Much  Ado  about  Not 

Hing. 

Antony  and  Cleop 

Atra. 

All's  Well  that  Ends 

Well.* 

*The  conclusive  cryptographic  proof  that  Bernard  Shaw  wrote  the 
plays  usually  attributed  to  Shakespeare — discovered  by  Mr.  S.  T.  James, 
of  Leeds. 


CHAPTER  IX 

WHEN  the  history  of  the  last  quarter  of  the  nineteenth 
century  comes  to  be  written,  it  will  be  seen  that  the 
name  of  Bernard  Shaw  is  inextricably  linked  with  five  epoch- 
making  movements  of  our  contemporary  era.  The  Collectivist 
movement  in  politics,  ethics  and  sociology;  the  Ibsen-Nietz- 
schean  movement  in  morals ;  the  reaction  against  the  material- 
ism of  Marx  and  Darwin;  the  Wagnerian  movement  in  music; 
and  the  anti-romantic  movement  in  literature  and  art — these 
are  the  main  currents  of  modern  thought  for  which  Shaw  has 
unfalteringly  sought  to  open  a  passage  into  modern  con- 
sciousness. 

On  the  death  of  Mr.  Edmund  Yates,  the  editor  of  the  World, 
in  1894,  Shaw  gave  up  his  "  labour  of  Hercules  "  as  music 
critic  of  that  paper,  and  was  succeeded  by  Mr.  Robert  Hichens. 
By  this  time  Shaw  had  only  one  more  critical  continent  to  con- 
quer ;  but  he  wanted  the  right  editor,  he  has  told  us — "  one  with 
the  virtues  of  Yates — and  some  of  his  faults  as  well,  perhaps." 
On  Mr.  Frank  Harris's  revival  of  the  Saturday  Review,  it  was 
matter  for  no  surprise  that  the  author  of  The  Quintessence  of 
Ibsenism  and  of  four  plays  besides,  should  have  been  offered  the 
post  of  dramatic  critic  on  that  magazine.  Shaw  did  not  begin 
his  career  as  an  actor,  as  is  sometimes  stated;  he  never  was 
on  the  stage,  nor  ever  dreamt  of  going  on  it.  He  has  taken 
part  in  a  copyrighting  performance,  and  once  acted  at  some 
theatricals,  got  up  for  the  benefit  of  an  old  workman  member 
of  the  "  International,"  with  Edward  Aveling,  Eleanor  Marx, 
May  Morris,  and  Sidney  Pardon,  all  amateurs;  and  imper- 
sonated a  photographer  at  William  Morris's  house  at  one  of 
the  soirees  of  the  Socialist  League.  But  there  is  not  the  re- 
motest foundation  for  the  statement  that  he  began  his  career 
as  an  actor.  Although  Shaw  had  written  a  number  of  plays, 
he  realized  that  dramatic  authorship  no  more  constitutes  a 
man  a  critic  than  actorship  constitutes  him  a  dramatic  author ; 

261 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

but  he  rightly  judged  that  a  dramatic  critic  learns  as  much 
from  having  been  a  dramatic  author  as  Shakespeare  or  Pinero 
from  having  been  actors.  It  was  his  chief  distinction  to  have 
touched  life  at  many  points ;  unlike  many  contemporary  dra- 
matic critics,  he  had  not  specialized  to  such  an  extent  as  to 
lose  his  character  as  man  and  citizen,  and  become  a  mere  play- 
goer. "  My  real  aim,"  he  asserted  in  reference  to  his  work  on 
the  Saturday  Review,  "  is  to  widen  the  horizon  of  the  critic, 
especially  of  the  dramatic  critic,  whose  habit  at  present  is  to 
bring  a  large  experience  of  stage  life  to  bear  on  a  scanty 
experience  of  real  life,  although  it  is  certain  that  all  really 
fruitful  criticism  of  the  drama  must  bring  a  wide  and  prac- 
tical knowledge  of  real  life  to  bear  on  the  stage." 

Jowett's  characterization  of  Disraeli  as  "  a  curious  combina- 
tion of  the  Arch-Priest  of  Humbug  and  a  great  man,"  has  a 
certain  appropriateness  for  Bernard  Shaw.  That  fictitious 
personage  known  as  G.  B.  S.  is  Shaw's  most  remarkable  crea- 
tion. With  characteristic  daring,  his  very  first  article  broke 
the  sacred  tradition  of  anonymity,  inviolate  till  then  in  the 
conservative  columns  of  the  Saturday  Review.  With  the  innate 
instinct  of  the  journalist,  he  devoted  himself  to  sedulous  self- 
advertisement,  creating  a  traditionary  character  unrivalled  in 
conceit,  in  cleverness,  and  in  iconoclastic  effrontery.  Charged 
with  being  conceited,  he  replied :  "  No,  I  am  not  really  a  con- 
ceited man:  if  you  had  been  through  all  that  I  have  been 
through,  and  done  all  the  things  I  have  done,  you  would  be 
ten  times  as  conceited.  It's  only  a  pose,  to  prevent  the  Eng- 
lish people  from  seeing  that  I  am  serious.  If  they  did,  they 
would  make  me  drink  the  hemlock."  Do  not  make  the  mistake 
of  concluding,  from  this  confession,  that  Shaw  was  merely  a 
ghastly  little  celebrity  posing  in  a  vacuum.  If  "  New  lamps 
for  old "  is  the  cry  of  this  ultra-modern  fakir,  "  Remember 
Aladdin  "  is  the  warning  of  the  suspicious  populace.  Shaw's 
chief  claim  for  consideration  is  not  merely  that  he  has  spent 
his  life  in  crying  down  the  futility  and  uselessness  of  the  old 
lamps,  but  that  with  equal  earnestness  he  has  advertised  the 
merits  of  the  new.  Nowhere  is  this  more  clearly  shown  than  in 
his  attitude  towards  Shakespeare  and  Ibsen. 

262 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

Shaw's  incorrigible  practice  of  "  blaming  the  Bard,"  pub- 
licly inaugurated  in  the  Saturday  Review,  is  no  mere  antic  in 
which  he  indulges  for  the  fun  of  the  thing,  but  as  inevitable 
an  outcome  of  his  philosophy  as  is  his  championship  of  Ibsen. 
His  inability  to  see  a  masterpiece  in  every  play  of  Shake- 
speare's arises  largely  from  the  fact  that  he  knows  his 
Shakespeare  as  he  knows  his  Bunyan,  his  Dickens,  his  Ibsen. 
It  is  flying  in  the  face  of  fact  to  aver  that  a  man  who  knew 
his  Shakespeare  from  cover  to  cover  by  the  time  he  was  twenty 
does  not  like  or  admire  Shakespeare.  "  I  am  fond,"  says 
Shaw,  "  unaffectedly  fond,  of  Shakespeare's  plays."  He  looks 
back  upon  those  delightful  evenings  at  the  New  Shakespeare 
Society,  under  F.  J.  Furnival,  with  the  most  unfeigned  pleas- 
ure. A  careful  perusal  of  his  score  or  more  articles  on  Shake- 
speare in  the  Saturday  Review  shows  that  he  has  not  only 
studied  Shakespeare  consistently,  and  periodically  interpreted 
him  from  a  definite  point  of  view,  but  that  he  always  fought 
persistently  for  the  performance  of  his  plays  in  their  integ- 
rity. And  although  he  has  by  no  means  taken  advantage  of 
all  his  opportunities,  yet  he  has  managed  to  see  between 
twenty  and  thirty  of  Shakespeare's  plays  performed  on  the 
stage. 

When  Shaw  first  read  Mr.  Henry  Arthur  Jones's  words: 
"  Surely  the  crowning  glory  of  our  nation  is  our  Shakespeare ; 
and  remember  he  was  one  of  a  great  school,"  he  almost  burst, 
as  he  put  it,  with  the  intensity  of  his  repudiation  of  the  second 
clause  in  that  utterance.  Against  the  first  clause  he  had  noth- 
ing to  say;  but  the  Elizabethans  Shaw  has  always  regarded 
chiefly  as  "  shallow  literary  persons,  drunk  with  words,  and 
seeking  in  crude  stories  of  lust  and  crime  an  excuse  for  that 
wildest  of  all  excitements,  the  excitement  of  imaginative  self- 
expression  by  words."  Mr.  Shaw  once  defined  an  Elizabethan 
as  "  a  man  with  an  extraordinary  and  imposing  power  of  say- 
ing things,  and  with  nothing  whatever  to  say."  Indeed,  it  was 
not  to  be  expected  that  the  arch-foe  of  Romance,  in  modern  art 
and  modern  life,  would  be  edified  with  the  imaginative  and 
romantic  violence  of  the  Elizabethans.  Nothing  less  than  a 
close  and,  so  to  speak,  biologic  study  of  humanity  in  the  nude 

263 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

can  satisfy  one  who  avers  that  Romance  is  the  root  of  modern 
pessimism  and  the  bane  of  modern  self-respect. 

To  call  the  Elizabethans  imaginative  amounted  with  Shaw 
to  the  same  thing  as  saying  that,  artistically,  they  had  de- 
lirium tremens.  The  true  Elizabethan  he  found  to  be  a 
"  blank-verse  beast,  itching  to  frighten  other  people  with  the 
superstitious  terrors  and  cruelties  in  which  he  does  not  himself 
believe,  and  wallowing  in  blood,  violence,  muscularity  of  ex; 
pression  and  strenuous  animal  passion  as  only  literary  men  do 
when  they  become  thoroughly  depraved  by  solitary  work, 
sedentary  cowardice,  and  starvation  of  the  sympathetic  cen- 
tres." He  passes  them  in  review,  calling  them  a  crew  of  de- 
humanized specialists  in  blank  verse!  Webster,  a  Tussaud 
laureate;  Chapman,  with  his  sublime  balderdash;  Marlowe,  the 
pothouse  brawler,  with  his  clumsy  horse-play,  his  butcherly 
rant,  and  the  resourceless  tum-tum  of  his  "  mighty  line."  Even 
in  this  dust-heap,  Shaw  managed  to  find  some  merit  and  va- 
riety. Was  not  Greene  really  amusing,  Marston  spirited  and 
"  silly-clever,"  Cyril  Tourneur  able  to  string  together  lines  of 
which  any  couple  picked  out  and  quoted  separately  might  pass 
as  a  fragment  of  a  real  organic  poem?  Though  a  brutish 
pedant,  Jonson  was  not  heartless;  Marlowe  often  charged  his 
blank-verse  with  genuine  colour  and  romance ;  while  Beaumont 
and  Fletcher,  although  possessing  no  depth,  no  conviction,  no 
religious  or  philosophic  basis,  were  none  the  less  dainty  ro- 
mantic poets,  and  really  humorous  character-sketchers  in 
Shakespeare's  popular  style.  "  Unfortunately,  Shakespeare 
dropped  into  the  middle  of  these  ruffianly  pedants  (the  Eliza- 
bethans) ;  and  since  there  was  no  other  shop  than  theirs  to 
serve  his  apprenticeship  in,  he  had  perforce  to  become  an 
Elizabethan  too. 

"  In  such  a  school  of  falsehood,  bloody-mindedness,  bom- 
bast, and  intellectual  cheapness,  his  natural  standard  was  in- 
evitably dragged  down,  as  we  know  to  our  cost ;  but  the  degree 
to  which  he  dragged  their  standard  up  has  saved  them  from 
oblivion."  Indeed,  Shakespeare,  enthused  by  his  interest  in  the 
art  of  acting  and  by  his  desire  to  "  educate  the  public,"  tried 
to  make  that  public  accept  genuine  studies  of  life  and  character 

264 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

in,  for  instance,  Measure  for  Measure  and  AIVs  Well  that  Ends 
Well,  But  the  public  would  have  none  of  them  (traditionary 
evidence,  be  it  noted),  "preferring  a  fantastic  sugar  doll  like 
Rosalind  to  such  serious  and  dignified  studies  of  women  as 
Isabella  and  Helena." 

Shakespeare  had  discovered  that  "  the  only  thing  that  paid 
in  the  theatre  was  romantic  nonsense,  and  that  when  he  was 
forced  by  this  to  produce  one  of  the  most  effective  samples  of 
romantic  nonsense  in  existence — a  feat  which  he  performed 
easily  and  well — he  publicly  disclaimed  any  responsibility  for 
its  pleasant  and  cheap  falsehood  by  borrowing  the  story  and 
throwing  it  in  the  face  of  the  public  with  the  phrase  '  As  You 
Like  It.9  "  Despite  Mr.  Chesterton's  assertion  that  Shaw  has 
read  an  ironic  snub  into  the  title,  and  that  after  all  it  was  only 
a  sort  of  hilarious  bosh,  Shaw  still  maintains,  as  he  did  fifteen 
years  ago,  that  when  Shakespeare  used  that  phrase  he  meant 
exactly  what  he  said,  and  that  the  phrase :  "  What  You  Will," 
which  he  applied  to  Twelfth  Night,  meaning  "  Call  it  what  you 
please,"  is  not,  in  Shakespearean  or  any  other  English,  the 
equivalent  of  the  perfectly  unambiguous  and  penetratingly  sim- 
ple phrase :  "  As  You  Like  It." 

Shakespeare's  popularity,  Shaw  would  have  us  believe,  was 
due  to  a  deliberate  pandering  to  the  public  taste  for  "  romantic 
nonsense."  Shaw  holds  that  Shakespeare's  supreme  power  lies 
in  his  "  enormous  command  of  word-music,  which  gives  fascina- 
tion to  his  most  blackguardly  repartees  and  sublimity  to  his 
hollowest  platitudes,  besides  raising  to  the  highest  force  all 
his  gifts  as  an  observer,  an  imitator  of  personal  mannerisms 
and  characteristics,  a  humorist  and  a  story-teller."  No  mat- 
ter how  poor,  coarse,  cheap  and  obvious  may  be  the  thought 
in  Much  Ado  about  Nothing,  for  example,  the  mood  is  charm- 
ing and  the  music  of  the  words  expresses  the  mood,  transporting 
you  into  another,  an  enchanted  world. 

"  When  a  flower-girl  tells  a  coster  to  hold  his  j  aw,  for 
nobody  is  listening  to  him,  and  he  retorts :  4  Oh,  you're  there, 
are  you,  you  beauty  ? '  they  reproduce  the  wit  of  Beatrice  and 
Benedick  exactly.  But  put  it  this  way :  '  I  wonder  that  you 
will   still  be  talking,   Signor   Benedick:   nobody   marks   you.' 

265 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

<  What !  my  dear  Lady  Disdain,  are  you  yet  living?  '  You  are 
miles  away  from  costerland  at  once."  In  other  words,  Shaw 
insists  that  a  nightingale's  love  is  no  higher  than  a  cat's,  except 
that  the  nightingale  is  the  better  musician! 

"  It  is  not  easy  to  knock  this  into  the  public  head,  be- 
cause comparatively  few  of  Shakespeare's  admirers  are 
at  all  conscious  that  they  are  listening  to  music  as  they 
hear  his  phrases  turn  and  his  lines  fall  so  fascinatingly 
and  memorably;  whilst  we  all,  no  matter  how  stupid  we 
are,  can  understand  his  jokes  and  platitudes,  and  are 
flattered  when  we  are  told  of  the  subtlety  of  the  wit  we 
have  relished,  and  the  profundity  of  the  thought  we  have 
fathomed.  Englishmen  are  specially  susceptible  to  this 
sort  of  flattery,  because  intellectual  subtlety  is  not  their 
strong  point.  In  dealing  with  them  you  must  make  them 
believe  that  you  are  appealing  to  their  brains,  when  you 
are  really  appealing  to  their  senses  and  feelings.  With 
Frenchmen  the  case  is  reversed:  you  must  make  them  be- 
lieve that  you  are  appealing  to  their  senses  and  feelings 
when  you  are  really  appealing  to  their  brains.  The  Eng- 
lishman, slave  to  every  sentimental  ideal  and  dupe  of  every 
sensuous  art,  will  have  it  that  his  great  national  poet  is 
a  thinker.  The  Frenchman,  enslaved  and  duped  only  by 
systems  and  calculations,  insists  on  his  hero  being  a  senti- 
mentalist and  artist.  That  is  why  Shakespeare  is  esteemed 
a  master-mind  in  England,  and  wondered  at  as  a  clumsy 
barbarian  in  France."  * 

Shaw  is  as  far  from  Taine  on  the  one  side  as  he  is  from 
Swinburne  on  the  other — "  as  far  this  side  bardolatry  as  John- 
son or  Mr.  Frank  Harris."  To  the  idolatrous  and  insensate 
worship  of  Shakespeare  which  got  on  Ben  Jonson's  nerves, 
which  Lamb  brought  back  into  fashion,  and  which  has  gone 
to  blasphemy  and  sacrilege  in  the  mouth  of  Swinburne,  Shaw, 
like  Byron  before  him,  declined  to  subscribe.    And  for  the  very 

*  Shakespeare's  *  Merry  Gentlemen/  in  the  Saturday  Review,  February 
26th,  1898. 

266 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

good  reason  that,  being  primarily  an  ideologue,  he  has  ex- 
amined Shakespeare  as  a  man  of  thought  only  to  find  him 
wanting.  Lop  away  all  beauty  of  form,  all  grace  of  mood — 
in  a  word,  reduce  Shakespeare  to  his  lowest  terms — and  what 
is  the  result?  Paraphrase  the  encounters  of  Benedick  and 
Beatrice  in  the  style  of  a  Blue-book,  carefully  preserving  every 
idea  they  present,  and  it  immediately  becomes  apparent  to 
Shaw  that  they  contain  at  best  nothing  out  of  the  common 
in  thought  or  wit,  and  at  worst  a  good  deal  of  vulgar  naughti- 
ness. Paraphrasing  Goethe,  Wagner,  or  Ibsen  in  the  same  way, 
he  finds  in  them  original  observation,  subtle  thought,  wide 
comprehension,  far-reaching  intuition  and  psychological  study. 
Even  if  you  paraphrase  Shakespeare's  best  and  maturest  work, 
you  will  still  get  nothing  more,  Shaw  avers,  than  the  platitudes 
of  proverbial  philosophy,  with  a  very  occasional  curiosity  in 
the  shape  of  a  rudiment  of  some  modern  idea,  not  followed  up. 
"  Once  or  twice  we  scent  among  them  an  anticipation  of  the 
crudest  side  of  Ibsen's  polemics  on  the  Woman  Question,  as  in 
AIVs  Well  that  Ends  Well,  when  the  man  cuts  as  meanly  selfish 
a  figure  beside  his  enlightened  lady-doctor  wife  as  Helmer  be- 
side Nora;  or  in  Cymbeline,  where  Posthumus,  having,  as  he 
believes,  killed  his  wife  for  inconstancy,  speculates  for  a  mo- 
ment on  what  his  life  would  have  been  worth  if  the  same  stand- 
ard of  continence  had  been  applied  to  himself.  And  certainly 
no  modern  study  of  the  voluptuous  temperament,  and  the 
spurious  heroism  and  heroinism  which  its  ecstasies  produce,  can 
add  much  to  Antony  and  Cleopatra" 

Last  of  all,  Shaw  goes  a  step  further  with  the  declaration 
that  Shakespeare's  weakness  lies  in  his  complete  deficiency  in 
that  highest  sphere  of  thought,  in  which  poetry  embraces  reli- 
gion, philosophy,  morality,  and  the  bearing  of  these  on  com- 
munities, which  is  sociology.  "  Search  for  statesmanship,  or 
even  citizenship,  or  any  sense  of  the  Commonwealth,  material 
or  spiritual,  and  you  will  not  find  the  making  of  a  decent 
vestryman  or  curate  in  the  whole  horde.  As  to  faith,  hope, 
courage,  conviction,  or  any  of  the  true  heroic  qualities,  you 
find  nothing  but  death  made  sensational,  despair  made  stage- 
sublime,  sex  made  romantic,  and  barrenness  covered  up  by  sen- 

267 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

timentality  and  the  mechanical  lilt  of  blank-verse."  All  the 
truly  heroic  which  came  so  naturally  to  Bunyan  is  missing  in 
Shakespeare.  In  the  words  of  Whitman,  Shaw  regards  Shake- 
speare as  "  the  aesthetic-heroic  among  poets,  lacking  both  in 
the  democratic  and  spiritual,"  but  never  as  "  the  heroic-heroic, 
which  is  the  greatest  development  of  the  spirit."  In  Shaw's 
eyes,  Shakespeare's  "  test  of  the  worth  of  life  is  the  vulgar 
hedonic  test,  and  since  life  cannot  be  justified  by  this  or  any 
other  external  test,  Shakespeare  comes  out  of  his  reflective 
period  a  vulgar  pessimist,  oppressed  with  a  logical  demonstra- 
tion that  life  is  not  worth  living,  and  only  surpassing  Thack- 
eray in  respect  of  being  fertile  enough,  instead  of  repeating 
'  Vanitas  vanitatum '  at  second-hand,  to  word  the  futile  doc- 
trine differently  and  better.  .  .  .  This  does  not  mean  that 
Shakespeare  lacked  the  enormous  fund  of  joyousness  which  is 
the  secret  of  genius,  but  simply  that,  like  most  middle-class 
Englishmen  bred  in  private  houses,  he  was  a  very  incompetent 
thinker,  and  took  it  for  granted  that  all  inquiry  into  life  began 
and  ended  with  the  question :  '  Does  it  pay  ?  '  .  .  .  Having 
worked  out  his  balance-sheet  and  gravely  concluded  that  life's 
but  a  poor  player,  etc.,  and  thereby  deeply  impressed  a  pub- 
lic which,  after  a  due  consumption  of  beer  and  spirits,  is  ready 
to  believe  that  everything  maudlin  is  tragic,  and  everything 
senseless  sublime,  Shakespeare  found  himself  laughing  and  writ- 
ing plays  and  getting  drunk  at  the  s  Mermaid '  much  as  usual, 
with  Ben  Jonson  finding  it  necessary  to  reprove  him  for  a  too 
extravagant  sense  of  humour."  Like  Ernest  Crosby,  Shaw 
regards  Shakespeare  as  the  poet  of  courts,  of  lords  and  ladies. 
His  fundamental  assent  is  accorded  to  Tolstoy  in  his  declara- 
tion that  Shakespeare's  quintessential  deficiency  was  his  failure 
to  face,  fairly  and  squarely,  the  eternal  question  of  life: 
"  What  are  we  alive  for  ?  "  * 

It  is  a  task  of  the  merest  supererogation  to  go  into  the  de- 
tails of  Shaw's  admiration  of  Shakespeare's  plays,  to  quote  his 
praise  of  Twelfth  Night  and  A  Midsummer  Night's  Dream  as 

*  Concerning  Shaw's  general  attitude  towards  Shakespeare,  compare  the 
Letter  from  Mr.  G.  Bernard  Shaw  appended  to  Tolstoy  on  Shakespeare. 
Funk  and  Wagnalls  Co.,  1906. 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

"  crown  jewels  of  dramatic  poetry  " ;  of  Romeo  and  Juliet  with 
its  "  lines  that  tighten  the  heart  or  catch  you  up  into  the 
heights  " ;  of  Richard  III.,  as  the  best  of  all  the  "  Punch  and 
Judy  "  plays,  in  which  the  hero  delights  man  by  provoking 
God,  and  dies  unrepentant  and  game  to  the  last;  of  Julius 
Caesar,  in  which  the  "  dramatist's  art  can  be  carried  no  higher 
on  the  plane  chosen  " ;  of  Othello,  which  "  remains  magnificent 
by  the  volume  of  its  passion  and  the  splendour  of  its  word- 
music  " ;  of  the  "  great  achievement "  of  Hamlet;  and  of  Mac- 
beth, than  which  "  no  greater  tragedy  will  ever  be  written." 
Not  only  is  Shaw  unaffectedly  fond  of  Shakespeare:  he  pities 
the  man  who  cannot  enjoy  him: 

"  He  has  outlived  hundreds  of  abler  thinkers,  and  will 
outlast  a  thousand  more.  His  gift  of  telling  a  story 
(provided  someone  else  told  it  to  him  first)  ;  his  enormous 
power  over  language,  as  conspicuous  in  his  senseless  and 
silly  abuse  of  it  as  in  his  miracles  of  expression;  his  hu- 
mour ;  his  sense  of  idiosyncratic  character ;  and  his  pro- 
digious fund  of  that  vital  energy  which  is,  it  seems,  the 
true  differentiating  property  behind  the  faculties,  good, 
bad,  or  indifferent,  of  the  man  of  genius,  enable  him  to 
entertain  us  so  effectively  that  the  imaginary  scenes  and 
people  he  has  created  become  more  real  to  us  than  our 
actual  life — at  least,  until  our  knowledge  and  grip  of 
actual  life  begins  to  deepen  and  glow  beyond  the  com- 
mon. When  I  was  twenty  I  knew  everybody  in  Shake- 
speare, from  Hamlet  to  Abhorson,  much  more  intimately 
than  I  knew  my  living  contemporaries."  * 

The  literary  side  of  the  mission  of  Ibsen  in  England,  as 
Shaw  conceived  it,  was  the  rescue  of  that  unhappy  country 
from  its  centuries  of  slavery  to  Shakespeare.  The  moral  side 
of  Ibsen's  mission  was  the  breaking  of  the  shackles  of  slavery 
to  conventional  ideals  of  virtue.  And  Shaw's  iconoclastic  cry 
in  the  Saturday  Review  was  "  Down  with  Shakespeare.     Great 

*  Blaming  the  Bard,  in  the  Saturday  Review,  September  26th,  1896. 

269 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

is  Ibsen ;  and  Shaw  is  his  prophet."  *  Interrogated  in  1892 
as  to  whether  Shakespeare  was  not  his  model  in  writing  Widow- 
ers' Houses,  Shaw  replied  with  quizzical  disdain :  "  Shakespeare ! 
stuff!  Shakespeare — a  disillusioned  idealist!  a  rationalist!  a 
capitalist!  If  the  fellow  had  not  been  a  great  poet,  his  rub- 
bish would  have  been  forgotten  long  ago.  Moliere,  as  a 
thinker,  was  worth  a  thousand  Shakespeares.  If  my  play  is 
not  better  than  Shakespeare,  let  it  be  damned  promptly."  And 
in  reviewing  his  work  as  a  dramatic  critic,  he  said :  "  After 
all,  I  have  accomplished  something.  I  have  made  Shakespeare 
popular  by  knocking  him  off  his  pedestal  and  kicking  him  round 
the  place,  and  making  people  realize  that  he's  not  a  demi-god, 
but  a  dramatist."  t  When  he  came  to  judge  the  works  of  the 
two  dramatists  by  the  tests  of  intellectual  force  and  dramatic 
insight,  quite  apart  from  beauty  of  expression,  he  found  that 
"  Ibsen  comes  out  with  a  double  first-class,  whereas  Shake- 
speare comes  out  hardly  anywhere."  Shaw  recognized  only 
the  splendour  of  Shakespeare's  literary  gift ;  whereas,  in  Ibsen, 
he  hailed  the  very  antithesis  of  Shakespeare,  i.e.,  a  thinker  of 
extraordinary  penetration,  a  moralist  of  international  influ- 
ence, and  a  philosopher  going  to  the  root  of  those  very  ques- 
tions to  the  solution  of  which  Shaw's  own  life  has  been  largely 

*  As  Mr.  Will  Irwin  has  it  in  his  Crankidoxology :  Being  a  Mental  Atti- 
tude from  Bernard  Pshaw: 

I'm  bored  by  mere  Shakespere  and  Milton, 
Tho'  Hubbard  compels  me  to  rave; 

If  7  should  lay  laurels  to  wilt  on 
That  foggy  Shakesperean  grave, 
How  William  would  squirm  in  his  grave! 

f  One  day  at  a  reception  at  the  Playgoers'  Club,  in  London,  Mr.  Osmon 
Edwards  delivered  an  address  on  "  The  superiority  of  Shaw  to  Shake- 
speare." He  showed  that  Shakespeare  was  a  bad  dramatist,  because  he 
was  a  great  poet;  he  asserted  that  his  humour  was  vulgar  and  his  tragedy 
puerile;  and  he  endeavoured  to  prove  that  Shaw  was  far  superior  to 
Shakespeare  in  his  realism,  in  his  critical  sense  of  life,  in  the  depth  of  his 
thought,  in  his  stage  technique. 

At  this  point,  Shaw  himself,  who  was  among  the  audience,  rose  to  his 
feet  and  begged  to  say  a  few  words  in  favour  of  his  famous  rival.  What 
a  delicious  situation — and  one  not  unworthy  of  Bernard  Shaw! 

Compare  The  English  Stage  of  To-Day,  by  Mario  Borsa,  pp.  152-3.  John 
Lane,  London  and  New  York,  1908. 

270 


ALL"™=  worlds  a  stage -Society 


^ 


s 


E.  T.  Reed.-] 


I 

[Courtesy  of  the   Ar/ist. 


JOHN     BULL'S    OTHER     PLAYWRIGHT. 


A  new  design   for   a   statue   in   Leicester  Square.       Reproduced   by   the  special   peimission 
of  the  proprietors  of  Punch. 


[Facing  p.  268 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

devoted.  In  the  dramas  of  Ibsen,  he  found  epitomized  the 
modern  realistic  struggle  for  intellectual  and  spiritual  emanci- 
pation, the  revolt  against  the  machine-made  morality  of  our 
sordid,  flabby,  and  hypocritical  age.  Shaw  had  begun  his  ca- 
reer in  the  strife  a.xd  turmoil  of  the  Zetetical  and  Dialectical 
Societies,  debating  the  questions  of  Women's  Rights,  Emanci- 
pation, and  Married  Women's  Property  Acts.  Before  he  had 
ever  read  a  line  of  Ibsen  or  heard  of  A  Doll's  House,  he  had 
already  reached  the  conclusion,  always  consistently  maintained 
by  him,  that  Man  is  not  a  species  superior  to  Woman,  but 
that  mankind  is  male  and  female,  like  other  kinds,  and  that 
the  inequality  of  the  sexes  is  literally  nothing  more  than  a 
cock-and-bull  story,  invented  by  the  "  lords  of  creation  "  for 
supremely  selfish  motives.  When  Ibsen  wrote  Ghosts,  his  name 
was  unknown  to  Shaw.  But  it  is  undeniable  that,  in  the 
eighties,  Shaw  was  forging  towards  precisely  similar  conclu- 
sions. He  had  felt  in  his  inmost  being  the  loathing  of  the 
nineteenth  century  for  itself,  and  had  marked  with  exultation 
the  ferocity  with  which  Schopenhauer  and  Shelley,  Lassalle 
and  Karl  Marx,  Ruskin  and  Carlyle,  Morris  and  Wagner  had 
rent  the  bosom  that  bore  them.  Smouldering  within  his  own 
breast  was  that  same  detestation  of  all  the  orthodoxies,  and 
respectabilities,  and  ideals  railed  at  by  these  political,  social 
and  moral  anarchs.  Fired  by  their  inspiring  example,  he  had 
espoused  the  cause  of  Socialism,  and  zealously  fought  the  bat- 
tle for  equality  of  opportunity,  for  social  justice,  for  woman's 
freedom,  for  liberty  of  thought,  of  action,  and  of  conscience. 
His  conscious  revolt  against  a  sentimental,  theatrical  and  sense- 
lessly romantic  age,  chivalrously  and  blindly  "  holding  aloft 
the  banner  of  the  ideal,"  preceded  his  acquaintance  with  The 
Pillars  of  Society  and  The  Wild  Duck.  A  Fabian,  almost  uni- 
versally regarded  in  England  as  a  crack-brained  fanatic  and 
doctrinaire,  he  found  years  afterwards  in  An  Enemy  of  the 
People  the  final  expression  of  his  experience  that  all  human 
progress  involves  as  its  fundamental  condition  a  recognition 
by  the  pioneer  that  to  be  right  is  to  be  in  the  minority.  The 
very  keynote  of  Shaw's  own  convictions  was  struck  in  Ibsen's 
declaration  that  the  really  effective  progressive  forces  of  the 

27i 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

moment  were  the  revolt   of  the  working-classes   against  eco- 
nomic, and  of  the  women  against  idealistic,  slavery. 

During  the  entire  period  of  his  career  as  a  dramatic  critic, 
Shaw  stood  forth  as  an  unabashed  champion  of  Ibsen.  For 
many  years  prior  to  this  period,  he  had  borne  the  odium  of 
Philistine  objurgation;  never,  even  in  the  blackest  hour  of 
British  intolerance  and  insult,  did  he  once  flinch  from  adher- 
ence to  the  Wizard  of  the  North.  Much  that  he  wrote  in  the 
Saturday  Review  concerning  Ibsen  and  his  plays,  he  had  al- 
ready said — and  said  better — in  The  Quintessence  of  Ibsenism, 
written  in  the  spring  of  1890.*  Still,  the  articles  in  the 
Saturday  Review  completed  Shaw's  analysis  of  Ibsenism,  as 
exhibited  in  the  remaining  plays  of  Ibsen  published  after  1890 ; 
and,  in  addition,  they  possessed  the  advantage  of  being  criti- 
cisms of  the  acted  dramas  themselves.  The  brilliant  brochure, 
entitled  The  Quintessence  of  Ibsenism,  contains  the  heart  of 
Shaw's  Ibsen  criticism,  and  is  undoubtedly  the  most  notable 
tour  de  force  its  author  has  ever  achieved  in  any  line.  It  is  a 
distinct  contribution  to  that  fertile  field  of  modern  philosophy 
farcically    and    superficially    imaged    by    Gilbert,    mordantly 

*  Cf.  preface  to  The  Quintessence  of  Ibsenism,  for  its  history  and  the 
causes  which  led  to  its  publication.  In  July,  1890,  Mr.  Shaw  read  his  Quin- 
tessence of  Ibsenism  in  its  original  form,  a  study  of  the  socialistic  aspect 
of  Ibsen's  writings,  before  the  Fabian  Society.  It  is  interesting  to  record 
what  appears  to  be  a  reference  to  this  lecture,  made  by  Henrik  Ibsen.  In 
a  letter  to  Hans  Lien  Braekstad  {Letters  of  Henrik  Ibsen,  translated  by 
John  Nilsen  Laurvik  and  Mary  Morison,  pp.  430-1),  a  Norwegian-English 
man  of  letters  (since  1887  resident  in  London),  who  has  done  much  for 
the  spread  of  Norwegian  and  Danish  literature  in  England,  Ibsen  wrote 
from  Munich,  August,  1890,  referring  to  a  garbled  report  of  a  newspaper 
interview  with  him: 

"  What  I  really  said  was  that  I  was  surprised  that  I,  who  had  made  it 
my  chief  life-task  to  depict  human  character  and  human  doctrines,  should, 
without  conscious  or  direct  intention,  have  arrived  in  several  matters  at 
the  same  conclusions  as  the  social-democratic  philosophers  had  arrived  at 
by  scientific  processes. 

"What  led  me  to  express  this  surprise  (and,  I  may  here  add,  satisfac- 
tion), was  a  statement  made  by  the  correspondent  to  the  effect  that  one 
or  more  lectures  had  lately  been  given  in  London,  dealing,  according  to 
him,  chiefly  with  A  Doll's  House." 

The  latter  statement  appears  to  be  in  error;  although  the  correspondent 
may  possibly  have  had  in  mind  some  lectures,  delivered  by  Eleanor  Marx, 
I  believe,  on  A  Doll's  House. 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

dramatized  by  Ibsen,  and  rhapsodically  concretized  by 
Nietzsche.  Let  us  disabuse  our  minds  at  once  of  the  idea  that 
this  book  is  either  mere  literary  criticism  or  a  supernally  clever 
jeu  d'esprit.  Not  a  critical  essay  on  the  poetical  beauties  of 
Ibsen,  but  simply  an  exposition  of  Ibsenism,  it  may  be  described 
as  an  ideological  distillation  of  Ibsen  in  the  role  of  ethical  and 
moral  critic  of  contemporary  civilization.  To  call  The  Quin- 
tessence of  Ibsenism  one-sided  is  not  simply  a  futile  condemna- 
tion: it  is  a  perfectly  obvious  truth. 

To  Ibsen,  according  to  Shaw,  the  pioneer  of  civilization  is 
the  man  or  woman  bold  enough  to  seek  the  fulfilment  of  the 
individual  will,  hardy  enough  to  prefer  the  naked  facts  of  life 
to  the  comforting  illusions  of  the  imagination.  Society  is  com- 
posed, in  the  main,  of  Philistines  who  accept  the  established 
social  order  without  demur  or  misgiving;  and  of  a  few  Ideal- 
ists, temperamentally  dissatisfied  with  their  lot,  yet  seeking 
refuge  from  the  spectacle  of  their  own  failure  in  an  imaginary 
world  of  romantic  ideals,  and  in  the  self-delusion  that  to  see 
the  world  thus  is  noble  and  spiritual,  whilst  to  see  it  as  it  is 
is  vulgar,  brutal  and  cynical.  But  sometimes  there  arises  the 
solitary  pioneer,  the  realist,  if  you  will — a  Blake,  a  Shelley,  a 
Bashkirtseff,  a  Shaw — who  dares  to  face  the  truth  the  idealists 
are  shirking,  to  chip  off  the  masks  of  romance  and  idealism, 
and  to  say  fearlessly  that  life  needs  no  justification  and  sub- 
mits to  no  test;  that  it  must  be  lived  for  its  own  sake  as  an 
end  in  itself,  and  that  all  institutions,  all  ideals,  and  all  ro- 
mances must  be  brought  to  its  test  and  stand  or  fall  by  their 
furtherance  of  and  loyalty  to  it. 

Thus  to  Ibsen :  "  The  Ideal  is  dead ;  long  live  the  ideal ! " 
epitomizes  the  history  of  human  progress.  Brand,  the  heroic 
idealist,  daring  to  live  largely,  to  will  unreservedly,  fails  be- 
cause of  his  inability  to  realize  the  unattainability  of  his  ideals 
in  this  present  life.  As  Cervantes  in  Don  Quixote  reduced  the 
old  ideal  of  chivalry  to  absurdity,  so  Ibsen  in  Peer  Gynt  re- 
duces to  absurdity  the  ideal  of  self-realization  when  it  takes 
the  form  of  self-gratification  unhampered  by  sense  of  responsi- 
bility. Shaw  found  it  unnecessary  to  translate  the  scheme  of 
Emperor  and  Galilean  in  terms  of  the  antithesis  between  ideal- 

27S 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

ism  and  realism,  since  Julian,  in  this  respect,  is  only  a  re- 
incarnation of  Peer  Gynt.  After  constructing  imaginative 
projections  of  himself  in  Brand,  Peer  Gynt  and  Julian,  Ibsen 
next  turns  to  the  real  life  around  him,  to  the  creatures  of  tons 
les  jours,  to  continue  his  detailed  attack  upon  idealism.  In 
The  Pillars  of  Society,  the  Rorlund  ideals  go  down  before  the 
realities  of  truth  and  freedom;  in  A  DolVs  House,  Helmer's 
unstable  card-house  of  ideals  falls  to  the  ground;  and  in 
Ghosts,  Mrs.  Alving  offers  herself  up  as  a  living  sacrifice  on 
the  altar  of  the  ideal,  only  to  discover  the  futility  of  the  sacri- 
fice. An  Enemy  of  the  People  exposes  the  fallacy  of  the  ma- 
jority ideal,  and  posits  the  striking  doctrine  that  to  be  right 
is  to  be  in  the  minority.  The  Wild  Duck  appears  as  a  whole- 
sale condemnation  of  the  ideal  of  truth  for  truth's  &ake  alone. 
Rosmersholm  embodies  Rebekka's  tragic  protest  against  the 
Rosmersholm  ideal  "  that  denied  her  right  to  live  and  be  happy 
from  the  first,  and  at  the  end,  even  in  denying  its  God,  exacts 
her  life  as  a  vain  blood-offering  for  its  own  blindness."  The 
Lady  from  the  Sea  presents  a  fanciful  image  of  the  triumph 
of  responsible  freedom  over  romantic  idealism  grounded  in  un- 
happiness,  while  in  Hedda  Gabler  the  woman  rises  from  life's 
feast  because  she  has  neither  the  vision  for  ideals  nor  the  pas- 
sion for  reality — "  a  pure  sceptic,  a  typical  nineteenth-century 
figure,  falling  into  the  abyss  between  the  ideals  which  do  not 
impose  on  her  and  the  realities  which  she  has  not  yet 
discovered." 

It  is  needless  to  follow  Shaw's  analysis  of  Ibsenism  further, 
although  it  might  readily  be  applied  to  Ibsen's  remaining 
plays.  Suffice  it  to  say,  that  Shaw  nowhere  denies  that  Ibsen 
is  an  idealist,  or  that  ideals  are  indispensable  to  human  prog- 
ress. He  has  been  forced  to  call  Ibsen  a  realist;  in  fact,  al- 
most to  invent  new  terms,  a  new  phraseology,  in  order  to  dis- 
tinguish between  the  ideals  which  have  become  pernicious 
through  senescence,  and  the  ideals  which  remain  valid  through 
conformity  to  reality.  Out  of  Ibsen's  very  longing  for  the 
ideal  grew  that  mood  of  ideal  suspiciousness  which  Brandes, 
like  Shaw,  affirmed  to  be  one  of  his  dominant  characteristics. 
Ibsen  opposes  current  political  and  moral  values,  strong  in  the 

274 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

conviction  that  every  end  should  be  challenged  to  justify  the 
means.  Acceptance  of  Ibsen's  philosophy  to  will  greatly,  to 
dare  nobly,  to  be  always  prepared  to  violate  the  code  of  con- 
ventional morality,  to  find  fulfilment  of  the  will  as  much  in 
voluntary  submission  to  reality  as  in  affirmation  of  life  the 
eternal — must  at  once,  Shaw  rightly  indicates,  greatly  deepen 
the  sense  of  moral  responsibility.  "  What  Ibsen  insists  on  is 
that  there  is  no  golden  rule — that  conduct  must  justify  itself 
by  its  effect  upon  happiness  and  not  by  its  conformity  to  any 
rule  or  ideal."  * 

Shaw's  analysis  of  Ibsenism  holds  out  a  large,  sane,  tolerant 
standard  of  life  as  the  inevitable  lesson  of  Ibsen's  plays.  Lies, 
pretences,  and  hypocrisies  avail  not  against  the  strong  man, 
fortified  in  the  resolution  to  find  himself,  to  attain  self-realiza- 
tion, through  fulfilment  of  the  will.  However  much  one  may 
regret  that  Shaw,  by  preserving  his  postulate/,  in  concrete  terms, 
has  to  some  extent  diverted  our  attention  from  the  whole 
formidable  significance  of  the  Ibsenic  drama,  it  is  idle  to  deny 
that  the  book  is  at  once  caustically  powerful  and  unflaggingly 
brilliant.  Certainly  Shaw  has  seen  Ibsen  clearly,  even  if  he  has 
not  seen  him  whole.  Ibsen  cannot  be  summed  up  in  a  thesis; 
the  curve  of  his  art,  as  Mr.  Huneker  says,  reaches  across  the 
edge  of  the  human  soul.  "  The  quintessence  of  Ibsenism  is  that 
there  is  no  formula  " — this  is  Shaw's  last  assurance  to  us  that 
he  has  not  reduced  Ibsen  to  a  formula.  It  is  impossible  for 
anyone,  with  greater  assurance,  to  assure  us  that  there  is  noth- 
ing assured. 

Comprehension  of  Shaw's  attitude  towards  Shakespeare  and 
Ibsen  is  a  prerequisite  to  an  accurate  judgment  of  his  attitude 
towards  dramatic  art  in  general,  and,  more  particularly,  to- 
wards the  contemporary  British  stage.  Beneath  all  his  criti- 
cism lay  the  belief  that  the  theatre  of  to-day  is  as  important 
an  institution  as  the  Church  was  in  the  Middle  Ages.  "  The 
apostolic  succession  from  Eschylus  to  myself,"  he  recently  said, 
in  speaking  of  his  Saturday  Review  period,  "  is  as  serious  and  as 

*  This  seems  to  me  a  very  superficial  judgment,  and  one  which  Shaw 
himself  would  doubtless  repudiate  to-day.  How  thoroughly  inappropriate 
and  erroneous  is  the  use  of  the  word  "  happiness  "  in  this  connection ! 

275 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

continuously  inspired  as  that  younger  institution,  the  apostolic 
succession  of  the  Christian  Church.  Unfortunately  this  Chris- 
tian Church,  founded  gaily  with  a  pun,  has  been  so  largely 
corrupted  by  rank  Satanism  that  it  has  become  the  Church 
where  you  must  not  laugh ;  and  so  it  is  giving  way  to  that  older 
and  greater  Church  to  which  I  belong:  the  Church  where  the 
oftener  you  laugh  the  better,  because  by  laughter  only  can  you 
destroy  evil  without  malice,  and  affirm  good-fellowship  without 
mawkishness.  When  I  wrote,  I  was  well  aware  of  what  an 
unofficial  census  of  Sunday  worshippers  presently  proved,  that 
church-going  in  London  has  been  largely  replaced  by  play- 
going.  This  would  be  a  very  good  thing  if  the  theatre  took 
itself  seriously  as  a  factory  of  thought,  a  prompter  of  con- 
science, an  elucidator  of  social  conduct,  an  armoury  against 
despair  and  dullness,  and  a  temple  of  the  Ascent  of  Man.  I 
took  it  seriously  in  that  way,  and  preached  about  it  instead  of 
merely  chronicling  its  news  and  alternately  petting  and  snub- 
bing it  as  a  licentious  but  privileged  form  of  public  entertain- 
ment. And  this,  I  believe,  is  why  my  sermons  gave  so  little 
offence,  and  created  so  much  interest."  *  Although  plays  have 
neither  political  constitutions  nor  established  churches,  they 
must  all,  if  they  are  to  be  anything  more  than  the  merest  tissue 
of  stage  effects,  have  a  philosophy  even  if  it  be  no  more  than 
an  unconscious  expression  of  the  author's  temperament.  Just 
as  nowadays  all  the  philosophers  maintain  intimate  relations 
with  the  fine  arts,  so  conversely  the  great  dramatists  have  at 
all  times  maintained  intimate  relations  with  philosophy.  Wil- 
liam Archer  used  often  to  tell  Shaw  that  he  (Shaw)  had  no 
real  love  of  art,  no  enjoyment  of  it,  only  a  faculty  for  observ- 
ing performances,  and  an  interest  in  the  intellectual  tendency 
of  plays.  One  may  retort  in  Shaw's  own  words :  "  In  all  the 
life  that  has  energy  enough  to  be  interesting  to  me,  subjective 
volition,  passion,  will,  make  intellect  the  merest  tool."  It  is 
significant  of  much  that,  to  Shaw,  the  play  is  not  the  thing, 
but  its  thought,  its  purpose,  its  feeling,  its  execution.  Indeed, 
he   regarded   the   theatre    as    a   response   to   our   need   for   a 

*  The  Author's  Apology — preface  to  the  first  English  edition  of  Dramatic 
Opinions  and  Essays,  by  Bernard  Shaw. 

276 


Jessie  HoUiday.~\ 


[CoM/'tes^  0/  ffte  Artist. 


WILLIAM     ARCHER. 
From  the  original  pencil  sketch. 


[Facing  p.  274 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

"  sensable  expression  of  our  ideals  and  illusions  and  approvals 
and  resentments."  In  comparing  the  dramatic  standards  of 
Archer  and  himself,  Shaw  exhibits  a  passion  for  feeling  little 
suspected  by  his  critics :  "  Every  element,  even  though  it  be 
an  element  of  artistic  force,  which  interferes  with  the  credibility 
of  the  scene,  wounds  him,  and  is  so  much  to  the  bad.  To  him 
acting,  like  scene-painting,  is  merely  a  means  to  an  end,  that 
end  being  to  enable  him  to  make-believe.  To  me  the  play  is 
only  the  means,  the  end  being  the  expression  of  feeling  by  the 
arts  of  the  actor,  the  poet,  the  musician.  Anything  that  makes 
this  impression  more  vivid,  whether  it  be  versification,  or  an 
orchestra,  or  a  deliberately  artificial  rendition  of  the  lines,  is 
so  much  to  the  good  for  me,  even  though  it  may  destroy  all  the 
verisimilitude  of  the  scene." 

In  a  review  of  the  London  dramatic  season  of  1904-5  Mr. 
Walkley  made  the  following  characterization  of  Shaw : 

"  After  all,  we  must  recall  this  truth :  the  primordial  func- 
tion of  the  artist — whatever  his  means  of  artistic  expression — 
is  to  be  a  purveyor  of  pleasure,  and  the  man  who  can  give 
us  a  refined  intellectual  pleasure,  or  a  pleasure  of  moral  na- 
ture or  of  social  sympathy,  or  else  a  pleasure  which  arises 
from  being  given  an  unexpected  or  wider  outlook  upon  life — 
this  man  imparts  to  us  a  series  of  delicate  and  moving  sensa- 
tions which  the  spectacle  simply  of  technical  address,  of  the- 
atrical talent,  can  never  inspire.  And  this  man  is  no  other  than 
Bernard  Shaw."  * 

In  conversation  with  me,  Shaw  vehemently  repudiated  the 
notion  that  he  was  anything  so  petty  as  a  mere  purveyor  of 
pleasure.  "  The  theatre  cannot  give  pleasure,"  he  went  so  far 
as  to  say.  "  It  defeats  its  very  purpose  if  it  does  not  take  you 
outside  of  yourself.  It  may  sometimes — and,  indeed,  often 
does — give  one  sensations  which  are  far  from  pleasant,  which 
may  even  be,  in  the  last  degree,  horrifying  and  terrible.  The 
function  of  the  theatre  is  to  stir  people,  to  make  them  think, 
to  make  them  suffer. 

"  Why,  I  have  seen  people  stagger  out  of  the  Court  Theatre 

*L§  Temps,  August  28th,  1905. 

277 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

after  seeing  one  of  my  plays,"  he  said,  laughing,  "  unspeak- 
ably indignant  with  me  because  I  had  made  them  think,  had 
stirred  them  to  opposition,  and  had  made  them  heartily 
ashamed  of  themselves." 

In  regard  to  comedy,  the  field  in  which  he  peculiarly  excels, 
Shaw  is  equally  positive  in  the  statement  that  unless  comedy 
touches  as  well  as  amuses  him,  he  is  defrauded  of  his  just  due. 
"  When  a  comedy  of  mine  is  performed,  it  is  nothing  to  me  that 
the  spectators  laugh — any  fool  can  make  an  audience  laugh. 
I  want  to  see  how  many  of  them,  laughing  or  grave,  have  tears 
in  their  eyes."  More  than  once  he  has  insisted  that  people's 
ideas,  however  useful  they  may  be  for  embroidery,  especially 
in  passages  of  comedy,  are  not  the  true  stuff  of  drama,  which 
is  always  "  the  naive  feeling  underlying  the  ideas."  When  Mr. 
Meredith  said,  in  his  Essay  on  Comedy,  "  The  English  public 
have  the  basis  of  the  comic  in  them:  an  esteem  for  common 
sense,"  the  remark  aroused  Mr.  Shaw's  most  vigorous  opposi- 
tion. The  intellectual  virtuosity  of  the  Frenchman,  the  Irish- 
man, the  American,  the  ancient  Greek,  leading  to  a  love  of 
intellectual  mastery  of  things,  Shaw  acutely  observes,  "  pro- 
duces a  positive  enjoyment  of  disillusion  (the  most  dreaded 
and  hated  of  calamities  in  England),  and  consequently  a  love 
of  comedy  (the  fine  art  of  disillusion)  deep  enough  to  make 
huge  sacrifices  of  dearly  idealized  institutions  to  it.  Thus, 
in  France,  Moliere  was  allowed  to  destroy  the  Marquises.  In 
England  he  could  not  have  shaken  even  such  titles  as  the  acci- 
dental sheriff's  knighthood  of  the  late  Sir  Augustus  Harris." 
Shaw  had  realized  to  his  own  misfortune  that  the  Englishman's 
so-called  "  common  sense  "  always  involves  a  self-satisfied  un- 
consciousness of  its  own  moral  and  intellectual  bluntness, 
whereas  the  function  of  comedy — in  particular  the  comedies 
written  by  Shaw  himself — is  "  to  dispel  such  unconsciousness 
by  turning  the  searchlight  of  the  keenest  moral  and  intellectual 
analysis  right  on  it."  The  following  paragraph  embodies 
Shaw's  rather  limited  conception  of  comedy: 

"  The  function  of  comedy  is  nothing  less  than  the  de- 
struction  of   old-established   morals.     Unfortunately,   to- 

278 


I 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

day  such  iconoclasm  can  be  tolerated  by  our  play-going 
citizens  only  as  a  counsel  of  despair  and  pessimism.  They 
can  find  a  dreadful  joy  in  it  when  it  is  done  seriously,  or 
even  grimly  and  terribly  as  they  understand  Ibsen  to  be 
doing  it;  but  that  it  should  be  done  with  levity,  with 
silvery  laughter  like  the  crackling  of  thorns  under  a  pot, 
is  too  scandalously  wicked,  too  cynical,  too  heartlessly 
shocking  to  be  borne.  Consequently,  our  plays  must 
either  be  exploitations  of  old-established  morals  or  tragic 
challengings  of  the  order  of  Nature.  Reductions  to  ab- 
surdity, however  logical ;  banterings,  however  kind ;  irony, 
however  delicate;  merriment,  however  silvery,  are  out  of 
the  question  in  matters  of  morality,  except  among  men 
with  a  natural  appetite  for  comedy  which  must  be  satisfied 
at  all  costs  and  hazards:  that  is  to  say,  not  among 
the  English  play-going  public^  which  positively  dislikes 
comedy."  * 

It  is  perfectly  apparent  that  it  was  Shaw's  distinction — a 
notorious  distinction — to  be  the  leading  and  almost  unique 
representative  of  a  school  which  was  in  violent  reaction  against 
that  of  Pinero,  generally  regarded  as  the  premier  British 
dramatist.  Moreover,  he  lacked  the  sympathy  of  his  colleagues 
in  dramatic  criticism — Clement  Scott,  the  impassioned  cham- 
pion of  British  sentimentality  and  ready-made  morals,  William 
Archer,  the  austere  patron  of  young  England  in  the  drama, 
and  Walkley,  the  Gallic  impressionist  and  dilettante.  Shaw 
endured  the  virulent  attacks  of  Clement  Scott  with  equanimity, 
if  not  with  positive  enjoyment.  By  his  friend  Walkley  he  was 
taunted,  under  the  classic  name  of  Euthrypho,  with  being  an 
impossibilist :  "  Euthrypho  hardly  falls  into  Mr.  Grant  Allen's 
category  of  '  serious  intellects,'  for  none  has  ever  known  him 
to  be  serious,  but  about  his  intellect  there  is,  as  the  Grand  In- 
quisitor says: 

"  *  No  probable  possible  shadow  of  doubt, 
No  possible  doubt  whatever.' 

A  universal  genius,  a  brilliant  political  economist,  a  Fabian 

*  Meredith  on  Comedy,  in  the  Saturday  Review,  March  27th,  1897. 

279 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

of  the  straitest  sect  of  the  Fabians,  a  critic  (of  other  arts  than 
the  dramatic)  comme  il  y  en  a  peu,  he  persists,  where  the  stage 
is  concerned,  in  crying  for  the  moon,  and  will  not  be  satisfied, 
as  the  rest  of  us  have  learned  to  be,  with  the  only  attainable 
substitute,  a  good  wholesome  cheese.  His  standard  is  as  much 
too  high  as  Crito's  (another  critic)  is  too  low.  He  asks  from 
the  theatre  more  than  the  theatre  can  give,  and  quarrels  with 
the  theatre  because  it  is  theatrical.  He  lumps  La  Tosca  and  A 
Man's  Shadow  together  as  '  French  machine-made  plays,'  and, 
because  he  is  not  edified  by  them,  refuses  to  be  merely  amused. 
Because  The  Dead  Heart  is  not  on  the  level  of  a  Greek  trag- 
edy, he  is  blind  to  its  merits  as  a  pantomime.  He  refuses  to 
recognize  the  advance  made  by  Mr.  Pinero  because  Mr.  Pinero 
has  not  yet  advanced  as  far  as  Henrik  Ibsen.  Half  a  loaf,  the 
wise  agree,  is  better  than  no  bread ;  but  because  it  is  only  half 
a  loaf,  Euthrypho  complains  that  they  have  given  him  a 
stone."  *  Worse  than  all,  Mr.  Archer  vigorously  charged  him 
with  the  most  aggressive  hostility  towards  the  contemporary 
movement  in  British  drama.  In  one  of  his  Study  and  Stage 
articles,  entitled  Mr.  Shaw  and  Mr.  Pinero,  and  published  Au- 
gust 22d,  1903,  Mr.  Archer  thus  condemns  Shaw  as  a  dramatic 
critic :  "  Just  at  the  time  when  the  English  drama  began  clearly 
to  emerge  from  the  puerility  into  which  it  had  sunk  between 
the  'fifties  and  the  'eighties,  Mr.  Shaw  was  engaged,  week  by 
week,  in  producing  dramatic  criticisms.  Writing  for  a  six- 
penny paper,  he  had  but  a  limited  audience;  and,  therefore, 
even  his  wit,  energy  and  unique  literary  power  (I  use  the 
epithet  deliberately)  could  do  little  to  influence  the  course  of 
events.  But  all  that  he  could  do  he  did,  to  discredit,  crush 
and  stamp  out  the  new  movement.  Had  he  been  a  power  at 
all  he  would  have  been  a  power  for  evil.  There  were  moments 
during  that  period  when  I  sympathized,  as  never  before  or 
since,  with  the  Terrorists  of  exactly  a  century  ago.  I  felt 
that  when  a  new  and  struggling  order  of  things  is  persistently 
assailed  with  inveterate  and  inhuman  hostility,  it  is  no  wonder 
if  it  defends  itself  with  equal  relentlessness.     If  a  guillotine  had 

*  Playhouse  Impressions,  article  The  Dramatic  Critic  as  Pariah,  pp.  5-6. 

280 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

been  functioning  in  Trafalgar  Square — but  do  not  let  us  dwell 
on  the  horrid  fantasy.  Those  days  are  over.  '  We  have 
marched  prospering,  not  through  his  presence.'  There  is  still 
a  long  fight  to  be  fought  before  the  English  theatre  becomes 
anything  like  the  great  social  institution  it  ought  to  be;  but 
even  if  the  movement  were  now  to  stop  dead  (and  of  that  there 
is  not  the  slightest  fear),  nothing  can  alter  the  fact  that  the 
past  ten  years  have  given  us  a  new  and  by  no  means  despicable 
dramatic  literature." 

These  severe  characterizations  by  the  two  leading  English 
dramatic  critics  deserve  more  than  casual  notice.  Shaw  repre- 
sented Vecole  du  plein  air;  his  unpardonable  crime  consisted  in 
daringly  throwing  open  the  windows  to  let  in  a  fresh  and  vivi- 
fying current  of  ideas.  With  Shaw,  to  dramatize  was  to 
philosophize;  moreover,  he  sought  to  discredit  the  tradition 
that  the  drama  is  never  the  forerunner,  but  always  the  laggard, 
in  interpretation  of  the  Zeitgeist.  Far  from  being  the  insti- 
gator of  the  crimes  and  the  partner  of  the  guilty  joys  of  the 
drama,  he  regarded  himself  as  the  policeman  of  dramatic  art; 
and  avowed  it  his  express  business  to  denounce  its  delinquencies. 
Firm  in  the  faith  that  the  radicalism  of  yesterday  is  the  con- 
servatism of  to-morrow,  he  boldly  declared :  f6  It  is  an  instinct 
with  me  personally  to  attack  every  idea  which  has  been  full 
grown  for  ten  years,  especially  if  it  claims  to  be  the  foundation 
of  all  human  society.  I  am  prepared  to  back  human  societ3T 
against  any  idea,  positive  or  negative,  that  can  be  brought  into 
the  field  against  it.  In  this — except  as  to  my  definite  intel- 
lectual consciousness  of  it — I  am,  I  believe,  a  much  more 
typical  and  popular  person  in  England  than  the  conventional 
man;  and  I  believe  that  when  we  begin  to  produce  a  genuine 
national  drama,  this  apparently  anarchic  force,  the  mother  of 
higher  law  and  humaner  order,  will  underlie  it,  and  that  the 
public  will  lose  all  patience  with  the  conventional  collapses 
which  serve  for  the  last  acts  to  the  serious  dramas  of  to-day." 
He  found  the  contemporary  English  drama  lamentably  "  dat- 
ing "  in  ethics  and  philosophy ;  their  daily  observation  kept 
the  English  dramatists  up-to-date  in  personal  descriptions,  but 
there  was  "  nothing  to  force  them  to  revise  the  morality  they 

281 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

inherited  from  their  grandmothers."  But  Shaw's  high  and  un- 
compromising ideal  for  British  drama  was  no  justification  for 
Mr.  Archer's  charge  that  Shaw  as  a  dramatic  critic  was  only 
a  paralyzing  and  sterilizing  force.  "  There  is  more  talent  now 
than  ever,"  wrote  Shaw  in  December,  1895,  to  take  a  single 
example,  "  more  skill  now  than  ever,  more  artistic  culture, 
better  taste,  better  acting,  better  theatres,  better  dramatic 
literature.  Mr.  Tree,  Mr.  Alexander,  Mr.  Hare  have  made 
honourable  experiments,  Mr.  Forbes  Robertson's  enterprise  at 
the  Lyceum  is  not  a  sordid  one;  Mr.  Henry  Arthur  Jones  and 
Mr.  Pinero  are  doing  better  work  than  ever  before,  and  doing 
it  without  any  craven  concession  to  the  follies  of  the  British 
public." 

We  may,  perhaps,  best  arrive  at  a  notion  of  Shaw's  relation 
to  the  British  stage  by  discovering  his  attitude  towards  his 
colleagues  in  the  drama — say  Pinero,  Jones,  Wilde,  Grundy, 
Stevenson  and  Henley.  Pinero  he  resolutely  refused,  in  the 
face  of  popular  clamour,  to  laud  as  the  "  English  Ibsen."  He 
regarded  Pinero  as  an  adroit  describer  of  people  as  the  ordi- 
nary man  sees  and  judges  them,  but  not  as  a  genuine  in- 
terpreter of  character.  "  Add  to  this  a  clear  head,  a  love  of 
the  stage,  and  a  fair  talent  for  fiction,  all  highly  cultivated  by 
hard  and  honourable  work  as  a  writer  of  effective  stage  plays 
for  the  modern  commercial  theatre;  and  you  have  him  on  his 
real  level."  The  Second  Mrs.  Tanqueray,  hailed  as  the  great- 
est tragedy  of  the  modern  English  school,  Shaw  regarded  as 
not  only  a  stage  play  in  the  most  technical  sense,  but  even  a 
noticeably  old-fashioned  one  in  its  sentiment  and  stage- 
mechanism;  he  objected  to  it  on  another  ground — and  quite 
unreasonably,  I  think — because  it  exhibited,  not  the  sexual 
relations  between  the  principals,  but  the  social  reactions  set  up 
by  this  amazing  marriage.  Shaw  was  utterly  revolted  by 
Pinero's  coarseness  and  unspeakable  ignorance  in  the  por- 
trayal of  the  feminine  social  agitation  in  The  Notorious  Mrs. 
Ebbsmith;  the  noble  work  of  such  women  as  Annie  Besant, 
who  had  worked  at  Shaw's  side  for  many  years,  gave  the  direct 
lie  to  Pinero's  characterization.  "  I  once  pointed  out  a  method 
of  treatment  which  might  have  made  The  Notorious  Mrs.  Ebb- 

282 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

smith  bearable,"  Mr.  Shaw  recently  remarked  to  me.  "  Now 
I  am  of  the  opinion  that  nothing  could  have  made  it  a  good 
play."  Shaw  had  a  vast  contempt  for  Pinero  as  a  moralist 
and  a  social  philosopher.  "  Archer  objected  to  me  as  a  critic," 
he  once  remarked  to  me,  "  because  I  didn't  like  The  Profligate 
and  The  Second  Mrs.  Tanqueray."  But  Shaw  sincerely  ad- 
mired the  Pinero  of  The  Benefit  of  the  Doubt  and  The  Hobby 
Horset  notable  as  they  were  for  high  dramatic  pressure  or  true 
comedy,  close-knit  action  or  genuine  literary  workmanship, 
humour,  fresh  observation,  naturalness,  and  free  development 
of  character.  Shaw  technically  defined  a  "  character  actor  " 
as  a  "  clever  stage  performer  who  cannot  act,  and  therefore 
makes  an  elaborate  study  of  the  disguises  and  stage  tricks  by 
which  acting  can  be  grossly  simulated."  And  he  pronounced 
Pinero's  performance  as  a  thinker  and  social  philosopher  to  be 
"  simply  character  acting  in  the  domain  of  authorship,  which 
can  impose  only  on  those  who  are  taken  in  by  character  acting 
on  the  stage." 

The  hypothetical  "  guillotine  functioning  in  Trafalgar 
Square,"  of  which  Mr.  Archer  speaks,  Shaw  insists  was  re- 
served for  him,  not  at  all  because  he  did  all  that  he  could  do 
"  to  discredit,  crush,  and  stamp  out  the  new  movement,"  but 
)ecause  he  would  not  bow  to  the  fetish  of  Pinero.  One  of  his 
chief  heresies  consisted  in  unhesitatingly  classing  Henry  Arthur 
Jones  as  "  first,  and  eminently  first,  among  the  surviving  fit- 
test of  his  own  generation  of  playwrights."  Ever  on  the  side 
of  the  minority,  he  regarded  Michael  and  His  Lost  Angel  as 
"  the  best  play  its  school  has  given  to  the  theatre."  While 
Pinero,  in  Shaw's  eyes,  drew  his  characters  from  the  outside, 
Jones  developed  them  from  within.  Shaw  recognized  in  Jones 
a  kindred  spirit ;  both  believed  that  "  in  all  matters  of  the  mod- 
ern drama,  England  is  no  better  than  a  parish,  with  '  parochial ' 
judgments,  '  parochial '  instincts,  and  '  parochial '  ways  of 
looking  at  things."  And  Shaw  accorded  Jones  the  warmest 
praise  because  he  was  "  the  only  one  of  our  popular  dramatists 
whose  sense  of  the  earnestness  of  real  life  has  been  dug  deep 
enough  to  bring  him  into  conflict  with  the  limitations  and  levi- 
ties of  our  theatre." 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

For  Grundy's  school  of  dramatic  art,  Shaw  had  absolutely 
no  relish.  Indeed,  he  lamented  the  vogue  of  the  "  well-made 
piece  " — those  "  mechanical  rabbits,"  as  he  called  them,  with 
wheels  for  entrails.  Henry  James's  Guy  Domville,  which  he 
regarded  as  distinctly  du  theatre,  won  his  sincere  praise;  and 
the  plays  of  Henley  and  Stevenson  delighted  him  with  their 
combination  of  artistic  faculty,  pleasant  boyishness  and  ro- 
mantic imagination,  and  fine  qualities  of  poetic  speech,  despite 
the  fact  that  the  authors  didn't  take  the  stage  seriously — 
"  unless  it  were  the  stage  of  pasteboard  scenes  and  characters 
and  tin  lamps."  And  to  Shaw,  Oscar  Wilde — "  almost  as 
acutely  Irish  an  Irishman  as  the  Iron  Duke  of  Wellington  " — 
was,  in  a  certain  sense,  "  our  only  playwright,"  because  he 
"  plays  with  everything:  with  wit,  with  philosophy,  with  drama, 
with  actors  and  audience,  with  the  whole  theatre." 

The  most  serious  and  the  most  well-founded  charge  that  can 
be  urged  against  Shaw  as  a  dramatic  critic  was  his  impatience 
with  everybody  who  would  not  "  come  his  way."  It  was  his 
habit  to  damn  a  play  which  was  not  written  as  he  himself  would 
have  written  it.  With  characteristic  iconoclasm,  Shaw  ex- 
pressed his  regret  that  Michael  and  His  Lost  Angel  is  a  play 
without  a  hero — some  captain  of  the  soul,  resolute  in  champion- 
ing his  own  faith  contra  mundum.  "  Let  me  rewrite  the  last 
three  acts,"  says  the  diabolonian  author  of  The  Devil's  Dis- 
ciple, "  and  you  shall  have  your  Reverend  Michael  embracing 
the  answer  of  his  own  soul,  thundering  it  from  the  steps  of 
his  altar,  and  marching  out  through  his  shocked  and  shamed 
parishioners,  with  colours  flying  and  head  erect  and  unashamed, 
to  the  freedom  of  faith  in  his  own  real  conscience.  Whether 
he  is  right  or  wrong  is  nothing  to  me  as  a  dramatist ;  he  must 
follow  his  star,  right  or  wrong,  if  he  is  to  be  a  hero." 

Again,  in  the  latter  part  of  The  Second  Mrs.  Tanqueray, 
Aubrey  says  to  Paula,  "  I  know  what  you  were  at  Ellean's  age. 
You  hadn't  a  thought  that  wasn't  a  wholesome  one ;  you  hadn't 
an  impulse  that  didn't  tend  towards  good.  .  .  .  And  this  was  a 
very  few  years  back."  Shaw's  comment  is  highly  significant 
of  his  attitude.  "  On  the  reply  to  that  fatuous  but  not  un- 
natural speech  depended  the  whole  question  of  Mr.   Pinero's 

284 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

rank  as  a  dramatist.  One  can  imagine  how,  in  a  play  by  a 
master-hand,  Paula's  reply  would  have  opened  Tanqueray's 
foolish  eyes  to  the  fact  that  a  woman  of  that  sort  is  already 
the  same  at  three  as  at  thirty-three,  and  that  however  she  may 
have  found  by  experience  that  her  nature  is  in  conflict  with 
the  ideals  of  differently-constituted  people,  she  remains  per- 
fectly valid  to  herself,  and  despises  herself,  if  she  sincerely 
does  so  at  all,  for  the  hypocrisy  that  the  world  forces  on  her 
instead  of  being  what  she  is."  That  "  master-hand,"  of  which 
Shaw  speaks,  is  now  well  known  to  the  English  public  through 
the  instrumentality  of  the  Court,  the  Savoy  and  the  Repertory 
Theatres.  But  at  the  time  of  writing  this,  and  many  another 
intolerant  criticism,  Shaw  was  violently  battering  away  at  the 
gates  of  tradition,  and,  Joshua-like,  blowing  his  horn  for  the 
fall  of  the  walls  of  the  Jericho  of  the  English  stage.  In  The 
Author's  Apology  to  his  Dramatic  Opinions  and  Essays,  Shaw 
frankly  says: 

"  I  must  warn  the  reader  that  what  he  is  about  to  study 
is  not  a  series  of  judgments  aiming  at  impartiality,  but  a 
siege  laid  to  the  theatre  of  the  nineteenth  century  by  an 
author  who  had  to  cut  his  own  way  into  it  at  the  point 
of  the  pen  and  throw  some  of  its  defenders  into  the  moat. 

"  Pray  do  not  conclude  from  this  that  the  things  here- 
inafter written  were  not  true,  or  not  the  deepest  and  best 
things  I  know  how  to  say.  Only,  they  must  be  construed 
in  the  light  of  the  fact  that  all  through  I  was  accusing 
my  opponents  of  failure  because  they  were  not  doing  what 
I  wanted,  whereas  they  were  often  succeeding  very  bril- 
liantly in  doing  what  they  themselves  wanted.  I  postu- 
lated as  desirable  a  certain  kind  of  play  in  which  I  was 
destined  ten  years  later  to  make  my  mark  as  a  playwright 
(as  I  very  well  foreknew  in  the  depth  of  my  own  uncon- 
sciousness) ;  and  I  brought  everybody — authors,  actors, 
managers — to  the  one  test:  were  they  coming  my  way  or 
staying  in  the  old  grooves  ?  " 

In  private,  Shaw  laughingly  declares  that  the  old  criticisms 

285 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

of  Pinero  and  Jones  were  all  fudge,  that  Pinero  and  Archer 
were  personal  friends,  and  Shaw  and  Jones  personal  friends ; 
so  that  Archer  took  on  the  job  of  cracking  up  Pinero  and 
Shaw  that  of  cracking  up  Jones,  who  were  both  "  doing  their 
blood  best  "  for  the  drama.  Later  on  the  old  criticisms  proved 
no  bar  to  the  most  cordial  personal  relations  between  Shaw 
and  Pinero ;  and  the  latter's  knighthood,  unsought  and,  indeed, 
undreamt  of  by  himself,  was  persistently  urged  on  the  Prime 
Minister  by  Shaw. 

Granting  all  Shaw's  unfairness,  his  confessed  partiality  and 
domination  by  an  idee  fixe  for  the  English  stage,  it  is  never- 
theless astounding  to  read  Mr.  Archer's  declaration  that 
Shaw's  "  critical  campaign,  conducted  with  magnificent  en- 
ergy and  intellectual  power,  was  as  nearly  as  possible  barren 
of  result."  On  the  contrary,  it  has  been  remarked  that  Shaw's 
dramatic  criticisms  supply  one  of  the  most  notable  examples 
of  cause  and  effect  modern  literary  history  can  show.  Far 
from  being  barren  of  result,  Shaw's  assaults  produced  an  ef- 
fect little  short  of  remarkable.  His  theories  and  principles 
found  free  expression  in  the  Court  Theatre.  Indeed,  they  may 
be  said  in  large  measure  to  have  created  it,  controlled  it,  and 
achieved  its  success.  To  Bernard  Shaw  and  Granville  Barker 
belong  the  credit  for  giving  London,  in  the  Court  Theatre,  a 
school  of  acting  and  a  repertory — or  rather,  short-run — 
theatre  such  as  England  had  never  known  before. 

It  would  take  me  too  far  afield  to  attempt  to  do  full  justice 
to  the  variety  and  multiplicity  of  Shaw's  functions  as  a  critic 
of  the  drama,  the  stage,  and  the  art  of  acting.  The  annoying 
part  of  his  career,  as  Mr.  W.  L.  Courtney  somewhere  says,  is 
that  he  was  more  often  right  than  wrong — "  right  in  sub- 
stance, though  often  wrong  in  manner,  saying  true  things  with 
the  most  ludicrous  air  in  the  world,  as  if  he  were  merely  en- 
joying himself  at  our  expense."  He  agitated  again  and  again 
for  a  subsidized  theatre;  and  fought  the  censorship  with  un- 
abating  zeal.*     He  championed  Ibsen  at  all  times  and  in  all 

*  Compare,  for  example,  his  ablest  and  most  exhaustive  essays  on  the 
subject:  The  Author's  Apology  to  the  Stage  Society  edition  of  Mrs.  War- 
ren's Profession;  Censorship  of  the  Stage  in  England,  in  the  North  Ameri- 

286 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

places,  realizing  full  well,  as  in  the  days  of  his  musical  criti- 
cism, that  Sir  Augustus  Harris's  prejudices  against  Wagner 
were  no  whit  greater  than  Sir  Henry  Irving's  prejudices 
against  Ibsen.  While  he  classed  Irving  as  "  our  ablest  ex- 
ponent of  acting  as  a  fine  art  and  serious  profession,"  he  con- 
sidered all  Irving's  creations  to  be  creations  of  his  own  tem- 
perament. Shaw  took  Irving  sternly  to  task  for  his  mutilations 
of  Shakespeare  and  his  inalienable  hostility  to  Ibsen  and  the 
modern  school.  On  the  day  of  Irving's  death,  Shaw  wrote: 
"  He  did  nothing  for  the  drama  of  the  present,  and  he  muti- 
lated the  remains  of  the  dying  Shakespeare;  but  he  carried  his 
lifelong  fight  into  victory,  and  saw  the  actor  recognized  as  the 
prince  of  all  other  artists  is  recognized ;  and  that  was  enough 
in  the  life  of  a  single  man.  Requiescat  in  pace."  *  Shaw  held 
Irving  responsible  for  the  remorseless  waste  of  the  modernity 
and  originality  of  Ellen  Terry's  art  upon  the  old  drama,  de- 
spite the  fact  that  she  succeeded  in  climbing  to  its  highest 
summit.  Shaw  found  consolation  in  the  reflection  that  "  if  it 
was  denied  Ellen  Terry  to  work  with  Ibsen  to  interpret  the 
indignation  of  a  Nora  Helmer,  it  was  her  happy  privilege  to 
work  with  Burne-Jones   and  Alma-Tadema."  t      It  was   only 

can  Review,  Vol.  CLXIX.,  pages  251  et  seq.;  The  Solution  of  the  Censor- 
ship Problem,  in  the  Academy,  June  29th,  1907;  The  Censorship  of  Plays, 
in  the  Nation  (London),  November  16th,  1907. 

*  Owing  partially  to  mistakes  in  re-translation  into  English,  partially 
to  certain  statements  made  therein,  Shaw's  article  in  the  Neue  Freie  Presse 
of  Vienna  (Feuilleton:  Sir  Henry  Irving,  von  Bernhard  Shaw,  October  20th, 
1905,  written  shortly  after  Irving's  death)  aroused  a  heated  discussion 
and  controversy,  which  raged  even  in  America  until  the  Boston  Transcript 
let  the  disputants  down  heavily  by  reprinting  the  article,  which  was  found 
to  be  quite  reasonable  and  absolutely  void  of  the  innuendo  of  which  Shaw 
was  accused,  namely,  that  Irving  had  played  the  sycophant  to  obtain  a 
knighthood.  It  is  noteworthy  that  certain  matters  as  to  which  Shaw  was 
erroneously  supposed  to  have  misrepresented  Irving,  were  solemnly  and 
publicly  denied  in  letters  to  the  Times,  yet  when  the  time  came  for 
biographies  of  Irving  to  appear,  they  contained  ample  proof  that  Shaw 
might  have  made  all  the  denied  allegations  had  he  chosen  to  do  so.  For 
the  facts  in  the  case,  compare  the  essay  in  the  Neue  Freie  Presse  with  the 
true  text  of  the  essay,  in  the  original  English,  with  Shaw's  own  notes,  in  the 
Morning  Post,  London,  December  5th,  1905. 

f  Shaw's  fine  essay  on  the  art  of  Ellen  Terry  also  appeared  in  the  Neue 
Freie  Presse  late  in  1905.  For  the  English  version  of  the  article,  cf.  the 
Boston  Transcript,  January  20th,  1906. 

287 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

after  Irving's  death,  and  after  Ellen  Terry  had  reached  the 
age  of  fifty-eight,  that  she  at  last  interpreted  the  Lady  Cicely 
Waynflete  of  Shaw's  own  Captain  Brassbound's  Conversion. 

After  ten  years  of  continuous  criticism  of  the  arts  of  music 
and  the  drama,  Shaw  gave  up,  exhausted.*  The  last  critical 
continent  was  conquered.  "  The  strange  Jabberwocky  Oracle 
whom  men  call  Shaw,"  began  to  attain  to  the  eminence  of  the 
"  interview  "  and  the  "  celebrity  at  home "  column.  In  his 
first  feuilleton,  Max  Beerbohm,  Shaw's  successor  on  the  Sat- 
urday Review,  said  of  him :  "  With  all  his  faults — grave  though 
they  are  and  not  to  be  counted  on  the  fingers  of  one  hand — he 
is,  I  think,  by  far  the  most  brilliant  and  remarkable  journalist 
in  London."  Plays,  Pleasant  and  Unpleasant,  then  just  pub- 
lished, were  creating  unusual  interest.  Shaw  was  doubtless 
influenced  thereby  to  devote  himself,  as  artist,  exclusively  to 
the  writing  of  plays.  In  order  to  make  as  much  as  the  stage 
royalties  from  The  Devil's  Disciple  alone,  for  example,  he 
would,  as  he  said,  have  had  "  to  write  his  heart  out  for  six 
years  in  the  Saturday."  The  superhuman  profession  of  jour- 
nalism began  to  pall  upon  him:  excellence  in  it  he  regarded  as 
quite  beyond  mortal  strength  and  endurance.  "  I  took  extraor- 
dinary pains — all  the  pains  I  was  capable  of — to  get  to  the 
bottom  of  everything  I  wrote  about.  .  .  .  Ten  years  of  such 
work,  at  the  rate  of  two  thousand  words  a  week  or  thereabouts 
— say,  roughly,  a  million  words — all  genuine  journalism,  de- 
pendent on  the  context  of  the  week's  history  for  its  effect,  was 
an  apprenticeship  which  made  me  master  of  my  own  style." 
Shaw's  income  as  a  journalist  began  in  1885  at  one  hundred 
and  seventeen  pounds  and  threepence;  and  it  ended  at  five 
hundred  pounds.  By  this  time  he  had  reached  the  age  at  which 
one  discovers  that  "journalism  is  a  young  man's  standby,  not 
an  old  man's  livelihood."  Shaw  had  said  all  that  he  had  to 
say  of  Irving  and  Tree;  and  concerning  Shakespeare  he 
boasted :  "  When  I  began  to  write,  William  was  a  divinity  and 
a  bore.  Now  he  is  a  fellow-creature."  But,  above  all,  he  had 
gloriously  succeeded  in  the   creation   of  that  most  successful 

*  His  Valedictory  appeared  in  the  Saturday  Review,  May  21st,  1898. 


THE  DRAMATIC  CRITIC 

of  all  his  fictions — G.  B.  S.  "  For  ten  years  past,  with  an  un- 
precedented pertinacity  and  obstination,  I  have  been  dinning 
into  the  public  head  that  I  am  an  extraordinarily  witty,  bril- 
liant, and  clever  man.  That  is  now  part  of  the  public  opinion 
of  England;  and  no  power  in  heaven  or  on  earth  will  ever 
change  it.  I  may  dodder  and  dote ;  I  may  pot-boil  and  plati- 
tudinize;  I  may  become  the  butt  and  chopping-block  of  all  the 
bright,  original  spirits  of  the  rising  generation ;  but  my  reputa- 
tion shall  not  suffer:  it  is  built  up  fast  and  solid,  like  Shake- 
speare's, on  an  impregnable  basis  of  dogmatic  reiteration." 


289 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

"In  all  my  plays  my  economic  studies  have  played  as  important  a  part 
as  a  knowledge  of  anatomy  does  in  the  works  of  Michael  Angelo." — Letter 
to  the  author,  of  date  June  30th,  1904. 

"  Plays  which,  dealing  less  with  the  crimes  of  society,  and  more  with  its 
romantic  follies,  and  with  the  struggles  of  individuals  against  those  follies, 
may  be  called,  by  contrast,  Pleasant." — Plays,  Pleasant  and  Unpleasant, 
Vol.  I.,  Preface. 


CHAPTER  X 

WHILE  resting  from  the  over-exertions  of  the  political 
campaign  at  the  time  of  the  General  Election  in  1892, 
Shaw  came  upon  the  manuscript  of  the  partially  finished  play 
begun  in  1885.  "  Tickled  "  by  the  play,  and  urged  by  Mr. 
Grein,  Shaw  began  work  upon  it  anew.  "  But  for  Mr.  Grein 
and  the  Independent  Theatre  Society,"  Shaw  confessed,  "  it 
would  have  gone  back  to  its  drawer  and  lain  there  another  seven  */ 
years,  if  not  for  ever."  *  With  this  play,  Widowers'  Houses,  ^^ 
Shaw  made  his  debut  upon  the  English  stage  as  a  problem 
dramatist  with  the  avowed  purpose  of  exposing  existent  evils  in 
the  prevailing  social  order.  Widowers'  Houses  is  the  first  native 
play  of  the  New  School  in  England  consciously  devoted  to  the 
exposure  of  the  social  guilt  of  the  community. 

In  1885,  shortly  after  the  completion  of  the  novels  of  his 
nonage,  Shaw  began  this  play  in  collaboration  with  Mr. 
William  Archer.  After  learning  to  know  Shaw  by  sight  in  the 
British  Museum  reading-room,  as  a  "  young  man  of  tawny  com- 
plexion and  attire,"  studying  alternately,  if  not  simultaneously, 
Karl  Marx's  Das  Kapital  (in  French),  and  an  orchestral  score 
of  Tristan  and  Isolde,  Mr.  Archer  finally  met  him  at  the  house 
of  a  common  acquaintance. 

"  I  learned  from  himself  that  he  was  the  author  of  several 
unpublished  masterpieces  of  fiction.  Construction,  he 
owned  with  engaging  modesty,  was  not  his  strong  point, 
but  hh  dialogue  was  incomparable.  Now,  in  those  days  I 
had  still  a  certain  hankering  after  the  rewards,  if  not  the 
glories,  of  the  playwright.  With  a  modesty  in  no  way 
inferior  to  Mr.   Shaw's,  I  had  realized  that  I  could  not 

*  Compare  the  account  of  Mr.  Eden  Greville,  one  of  Mr.  Grein's  asso- 
ciates in  the  Independent  Theatre  Society,  in  Munsey's  Magazine,  March, 
1906,  entitled,  Bernard  Shaw  and  His  Plays. 

293 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

write  dialogue  a  bit;  but  I  still  considered  myself  a  born 
constructor.  I  proposed,  and  Mr.  Shaw  agreed  to,  a  col- 
laboration. I  was  to  provide  him  with  one  of  the  numer- 
ous plots  I  kept  in  stock,  and  he  was  to  write  the  dialogue. 
So  said,  so  done.  I  drew  out,  scene  by  scene,  the  scheme 
of  a  twaddling  cup-and-saucer  comedy  vaguely  suggested 
by  Augier's  Ceinture  Doree.  The  details  I  forget,  but  I 
know  it  was  to  be  called  Rhinegold,  was  to  open,  as  Wid- 
owers9 Houses  actually  does,  in  an  hotel  garden  on  the 
Rhine,  and  was  to  have  two  heroines,  a  sentimental  and  a 
comic  one,  according  to  the  accepted  Robertson-Byron- 
Carton  formula.  I  fancy  the  hero  was  to  propose  to  the 
sentimental  heroine,  believing  her  to  be  the  poor  niece  in- 
stead of  the  rich  daughter  of  the  sweater,  or  slum-landlord, 
or  whatever  he  may  have  been ;  and  I  know  he  was  to  carry 
on  in  the  most  heroic  fashion,  and  was  ultimately  to  succeed 
in  throwing  the  tainted  treasure  of  his  father-in-law,  meta- 
phorically speaking,  into  the  Rhine.  All  this  I  gravely 
propounded  to  Mr.  Shaw,  who  listened  with  no  less  admira- 
ble gravity.  Then  I  thought  the  matter  had  dropped,  for 
I  heard  no  more  of  it  for  many  weeks.  I  used  to  see  Mr. 
Shaw  at  the  Museum,  laboriously  writing  page  after  page 
of  the  most  exquisitely  neat  shorthand  at  the  rate  of  about 
three  words  a  minute,  but  it  did  not  occur  to  me  that  this 
was  our  play.  After  about  six  weeks  he  said  tome:'  Look 
here:  I've  written  half  the  first  act  of  that  comedy,  and 
I've  used  up  all  your  plot.  Now  I  want  some  more  to  go 
on  with.'  I  told  him  that  my  plot  was  a  rounded  and 
perfect  organic  whole,  and  that  I  could  no  more  eke  it 
out  in  this  fashion  than  I  could  provide  him  or  myself  with 
a  set  of  supplementary  arms  and  legs.  I  begged  him  to 
extend  his  shorthand  and  let  me  see  what  he  had  done ;  but 
this  would  have  taken  him  far  too  long.  He  tried  to  de- 
cipher some  of  it  orally,  but  the  process  was  too  lingering 
and  painful  for  endurance.  So  he  simply  gave  me  an  out- 
line in  narrative  of  what  he  had  done ;  and  I  saw  that,  so 
far  from  using  up  my  plot,  he  had  not  even  touched  it. 
There  the  matter  rested  for  months  and  years.     Mr.  Shaw 

294 


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owner.   Mr.  J.   Murray  Allison. 


[Facing  p.  29Q 


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VMy 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

would  now  and  then  hold  out  vague  threats  of  finishing 
*  our  play,'  but  I  felt  no  serious  alarm.  I  thought  (judg- 
ing from  my  own  experience  in  other  cases)  that  when  he 
came  to  read  over  in  cold  blood  what  he  had  written,  he 
would  see  what  impossible  stuff  it  was.  Perhaps  my  free 
utterance  of  this  view  piqued  him;  perhaps  he  felt  im- 
pelled to  remove  from  the  Independent  Theatre  the  re- 
proach of  dealing  solely  in  foreign  products.  The  fire  of 
his  genius,  at  all  events,  was  not  to  be  quenched  by  my 
persistent  application  of  the  wet  blanket.  He  finished  his 
play;  Mr.  Grein,  as  in  duty  bound,  accepted  it;  and  the 
result  was  the  performance  of  Friday  last  at  the  Inde- 
pendent Theatre."  * 

According  to  Shaw's  account,  he  produced  a  horribly  incon- 
gruous effect  by  "  laying  violent  hands  on  his  (Archer's)  thor- 
oughly planned  scheme  for  a  sympathetically  romantic  c  well- 
made  play '  of  the  type  then  in  vogue,"  and  perversely 
distorting  it  into  a  "  grotesquely  realistic  exposure  of  slum- 
landlordism,  muncipal  jobbery,  and  the  pecuniary  and  matri- 
monial ties  between  it  and  the  pleasant  people  of  '  independent ' 
incomes  who  imagine  that  such  sordid  matters  do  not  touch  their 
own  lives."  Shortly  before  the  production  of  Widowers' 
Houses,  there  appeared  an  "  Interview  "  with  Shaw,  purporting 
to  give  some  idea  of  the  much-mooted  play,  but  leaving  the 
public  in  doubt  as  to  the  seriousness  with  which  this  mock- 
solemn  information  was  to  be  taken.f  "  Sir,"  said  Shaw  sternly 
to  the  interviewer  (himself!),  "it  (my  play)  will  be  nothing 
else  than  didactic.  Do  you  suppose  I  have  gone  to  all  this 
trouble  to  amuse  the  public?  No,  if  they  want  that,  there  is 
the  Criterion  for  them,  the  Comedy,  the  Garrick,  and  so  on. 

,   object  is  to  instruct  them."     And  to  explain  the  allusion  \ 
contained  in  the  title,  concerning  which  speculation  was  rife, 
Shaw  remarked  to  the  interviewer :  "  I  have  been  assured  that  / 


*Mr.  William  Archer,  writing  in  the  World  (London),  for  Wednesday, 
December  14th,  1892. 

fThe  Star,  November  29th,  1892.  Mr.  Archer  once  told  me  that  there 
was  little  doubt  that  Shaw  wrote  the  "  Interview  "  in  toto. 

295 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

in  one  of  the  sections  of  the  Bible  dealing  with  the  land  question 
there  is  a  clause  against  the  destruction  of  widows'  houses. 
There  is  no  widow  in  my  play ;  but  there  is  a  widower  who  owns 
slum  property.  Hence  the  title.  Perhaps  you  are  not  familiar 
with  the  Bible."  * 

After  repeated  calls  from  the  audience  Shaw  made  an  im- 
promptu speech  at  the  close  of  the  first  performance  of  Wid- 
owers' Houses.  He  said  that  "  he  wished  to  assure  his  listeners 
that  the  greeting  of  the  play  had  been  agreeable  to  him,  for 
had  the  story  been  received  lightly  he  would  have  been  disap- 
pointed. What  he  had  submitted  to  their  notice  was  going  on 
in  actual  life.  The  action  of  Widowers9  Houses  depicted  the 
ordinary  middle-class  life  of  the  day,  but  he  heartily  hoped  the 
time  would  come  when  the  play  he  had  written  would  be  both 
utterly  impossible  and  utterly  unintelligible.     If  anyone  were  to 

.  /ask  him  where  the  Socialism  came  in,  he  would  say  that  it  was 
in  the  love  of  their  art  on  Socialistic  principles  that  had  induced 
the  performers  to  give  their  services  on  that  occasion.  In  con- 
clusion, he  trusted  that,  above  all,  the  critics  would  carefully 
discriminate  between  himself  and  the  actors  who  had  so  zeal- 
ously striven  to  carry  out  his  intentions."  According  to  a  con- 
temporary account :  "  Warm  cheers  greeted  the  playwright  who 
thus  candidly  and  gratefully  acknowledged  the  excellent  work 
rendered  by  the  players,  whilst  still  proclaiming  that  his  play 
was  in  all  particulars  the  faithful  reflex  of  a  sordid  and  unpity- 
ing  age." 

The  play,  a  nine-days'  wonder,  was  widely  paragraphed  in 
the  newspapers,  and  regarded  in  some  quarters  as  a  daring 
attack  on  middle-class  society.  The  storm  of  protest  aroused 
by  Widowers9  Houses  almost  paralleled  the  howl  of  execration 
evoked  by  the  production  of  Ibsen's  Ghosts  in  England.  Wid- 
owers9 Houses  was  intended  as  neither  a  beautiful  nor  a  lovable 
work.      Shaw   confessed  years   afterwards   that   the   play  was 

^/entirely  unreadable  except  for  the  prefaces  and  appendices, 
which  he  rightly  regarded  as  good.  The  art  of  this  play  was 
confessedly  the  expression  of  the  sense  of  intellectual  and  moral 

*  Matthew  xxiii.,  14;  Mark  xii.,  38-40;  Luke  xx.,  46-47. 

296 


v^ 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

perversity ;  for  Shaw  had  passed  most  of  his  life  in  big  modern 
towns,  where  his  sense  of  beauty  had  been  starved,  whilst  his 
intellect  had  been  gorged  with  problems  like  that  of  the  slums. 
Widowers'  Houses  is  "  saturated  with  the  vulgarity  of  the  life 
it  represents  " ;  and,  in  the  first  edition  of  the  play,  Shaw  con- 
fesses that  he  is  "  not  giving  expression  in  pleasant  fancies  to 
the  underlying  beauty  and  romance  of  happy  life,  but  dragging 
up  to  the  smooth  surface  of  '  respectability  '  a  handful  of  the 
slime  and  foulness  of  its  polluted  bed,  and  playing  off  your 
laughter  at  the  scandal  of  the  exposure  against  your  shudder 
at  its  blackness." 

Like  Bulwer  Lytton,  Stevenson,  and  other  nineteenth-century 
novelists  who  turned  to  the  writing  of  plays,  Shaw  approached 
the  theatre  lacking  due  appreciation  of  the  difficulties  of 
dramatic  art,  the  perfect  artistic  sincerity  it  demands.  Writing  • 
his  play  as  a  pastime,  he  employed  it  as  a  means  of  shocking 
the  sensibilities  of  his  audience  as  well  as  of  winging  a  barbed 
shaft  at  its  smug  respectability.  Paying  no  heed  to  that  golden 
mean  of  "  average  truth,"  which  Sainte  Beuve  impressed  with 
such  high  seriousness  upon  the  youthful  Zola,  Shaw  indulges 
in  that  extreme  form  of  depicting  life,  the  mutilation  of  hu- 
manity, which  Brunetiere  pronounced  to  be  the  vital  defect  of 
naturalism.  A  pair  of  lovers  dans  cette  galere!  As  Mr.  Archer 
said  at  the  time :  "  When  they  are  not  acting  with  a  Gilbertian 
naivete  of  cynicism,  they  are  snapping  and  snarling  at  each 
other  like  a  pair  of  ill-conditioned  curs." 

The  accusation  of  indebtedness  to  Ibsen  hurled  at  Shaw  from 
all  sides  as  soon  as  his  play  was  produced  was  promptly 
squelched  by  Shaw's  vigorous  denial.  It  is  worth  remarking, 
however,  that  "  tainted  money,"  that  bone  of  contention  in 
America  and  the  theme  of  Shaw's  later  Major  Barbara,  is  the 
abuse  which  serves  as  the  mark  for  the  satire,  both  of  Ibsen  in 
An  Enemy  of  the  People,  and  of  Shaw  in  Widowers'  Houses. 
The  perverting  effect  of  ill-gotten  gains  upon  the  moral  sense 
is  the  lesson  of  these  two  plays.  Whereas  Shaw  was  content 
to  uncover  the  social  canker  and  expose  its  ravages  in  all  direc- 
tions, Ibsen,  through  the  instrumentality  of  Stockmann,  holds 
out  an  ideal  for  the  regeneration  of  society. 

297 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Widowers9  Houses  abounds  in  flashes  of  insight,  in  passages 
of  trenchant  dialogue,  in  sardonic  exposure  of  human  nature; 
the  keen  intellect  of  the  author  is  everywhere  in  evidence. 
Shaw's  vigorous  Socialism  is  largely  responsible  for  the  clarity 
and  succinctness  with  which  the  economic  point  is  driven  home ; 
and  the  discussions  of  social  problems  are  tense  with  a  nervous 
vivacity  almost  dramatic  in  quality.  And  yet  the  structural 
defect  of  the  play  is  the  loose  dramatic  connection  between  the  X 
economic  elucidations  and  the  general  psychological  processes 
of  the  action. 

Before  the  production  of  Widowers9  Houses,  Shaw  publicly 
stated  that  the  first  two  acts  were  written  before  he  ever  heard 
of  Ibsen ;  and  afterwards  he  asserted  that  his  critics  "  should 
have  guessed  this,  because  there  is  not  one  idea  in  the  play  that 
cannot  be  more  easily  referred  to  half  a  dozen  English  writers 
than  to  Ibsen;  whilst  of  his  peculiar  retrospective  method,  by 
which  his  plays  are  made  to  turn  upon  events  supposed  to  have 
happened  before  the  rise  of  the  curtain,  there  is  not  a  trace  in 
my  work."  *  Shaw  laughed  incontinently  at  those  people  who 
excitedly  discussed  the  play  as  a  daringly  original  sermon,  but 
who  would  not  accept  it  as  a  play  on  any  terms  "  because  its 
hero  did  not,  when  he  learned  that  his  income  came  from  slum 
property,  at  once  relinquish  it  (i.e.,  make  it  a  present  to  Sar- 
torius  without  benefiting  the  tenants),  and  go  to  the  goldfields 
to  dig  out  nuggets  with  his  strong  right  arm,  so  that  he  might 
return  to  wed  his  Blanche  after  a  shipwreck  (witnessed  by  her 
in  a  vision),  just  in  time  to  rescue  her  from  beggary,  brought 
upon  her  by  the  discovery  that  Lickcheese  was  the  rightful 
heir  to  the  property  of  Sartorius,  who  had  dispossessed  and 
enslaved  him  by  a  series  of  forgeries  unmasked  by  the  faithful 
Cokane ! " 

For  the  sake  of  its  bearing  upon  Shaw's  subsequent  career, 
one  important  contemporary  impression  deserves  to  be  placed 
on  record.  Five  months  after  the  production  of  Widowers9 
Houses,  in  a  review  (published  May  4th,  1893)  of  the  Inde- 

*  Appendix  I.,  Widowers'  Houses;  Independent  Theatre  edition.  Henry 
and  Co.,  London,  1893. 

298 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

pendent  Theatre  edition  of  that  play,  Mr.  William  Archer  ear- 
nestly endeavoured  to  dissuade  Shaw  from  turning  dramatist. 

"  It  is  a  pity  that  Mr.  Shaw  should  labour  under  a  delu- 
sion as  to  the  true  bent  of  his  talent,  and,  mistaking  an 
amusing  jeu  d'esprit  for  a  work  of  creative  art,  should 
perhaps  be  tempted  to  devote  further  time  and  energy  to 
a  form  of  production  for  which  he  has  no  special  ability 
and  some  constitutional  disabilities.  A  man  of  his  power 
of  mind  can  do  nothing  that  is  altogether  contemptible. 
We  may  be  quite  sure  that  if  he  took  palette  and  s  com- 
menced painter,'  or  set  to  work  to  manipulate  a  lump  of 
clay,  he  would  produce  a  picture  or  a  statue  that  would 
bear  the  impress  of  a  keen  intelligence,  and  would  be  well 
worth  looking  at.  That  is  precisely  the  case  of  Widowers9 
Houses.  It  is  a  curious  example  of  what  can  be  done  in 
art  by  sheer  brain-power,  apart  from  natural  aptitude. 
For  it  does  not  appear  that  Mr.  Shaw  has  any  more 
specific  talent  for  the  drama  than  he  has  for  painting  or 
sculpture." 

Shaw's  next  play,  The  Philanderer,  is  distinctly  a  piece  ^oc- 
casion and  should  be  read  in  the  light  of  the  attitude  of  the 
British  public  toward  Ibsen  and  Ibsenism  at  the  time  of  its 
writing.  After  Miss  Janet  Achurch's  performance  as  Nora 
Helmer  in  A  Doll's  House,  in  1889,  Ibsen  became  the  target  of 
dramatic  criticism;  and  Shaw's  Quintessence  of  Ibsenism,  pub- 
lished in  1891,  was  the  big  gun,  going  off  when  the  controversy 
was  at  its  height.  Sir  Edwin  Arnold  made  an  editorial  attack 
on  Ibsen,  Mr.  Frederick  Wedmore  echoed  his  denunciation,  and 
Clement  Scott  exhausted  his  vocabulary  of  vituperation  in  an 
almost  hysterical  outcry  against  the  foulness  and  obscenity  of 
the  shameless  Norwegian.  The  Philanderer  was  written  just 
when  the  cult  of  Ibsen  had  reached  the  pinnacle  of  fatuity. 
From  Shaw's  picture,  one  is  led  to  suppose  that  society,  with 
reference  to  Ibsen,  was  roughly  divided  into  three  classes:  the 
conservatives  of  the  old  guard,  regarding  Ibsen  as  a  monstrum 
horrendum;  the  soi-disant  Ibsenites,  glibly  conversant  with  Ib- 

299 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

sen's  ideas  but  profoundly  ignorant  of  their  meaning;  and, 
lastly,  those  who  really  understood  Ibsen,  this  class  being  made 
up  of  two  sorts  of  individuals,  those  who  really  intended  to 
adopt  Ibsen  principles,  and  those  who  were  keen  and  unscrupu- 
lous enough  to  exploit  Ibsenism  solely  for  the  sake  of  the  sus- 
tenance it  afforded  parasitic  growths  like  themselves.  The 
ideal  of  the  "  womanly  woman "  still  prevailed  in  English 
society.  Shaw  here  readily  perceived  the  possibilities  for  satire 
and  tragi-comedy,  both  in  the  clash  of  old  prejudices  with  new 
ideas,  and  in  the  mordant  contrast  discovered  by  the  conflict 
of  the  over-sexed,  passionate  "  womanly  woman  "  with  the  under- 
sexed,  pallidly  intellectual  philanderer  of  the  Ibsen  school.  Had 
Shaw's  performance  been  as  able  as  his  perception  was  acute, 
The  Philanderer  would  have  been  a  genuine  achievement  instead 
of  a  grimly  promising  failure. 
y  The  Philanderer  serves  as  a  link  between  the  plays  of  Shaw's 
earlier  and  later  manners.  Present  marriage  laws  really  have 
very  little  to  do  with  this  play,  which  concerns  itself  with  a 
study  of  social  types.  Julia  is  the  -fine  fleur  of  feral  femininity ; 
woman's  practice  of  employing  her  personal  charms  unscrupu- 
lously and  man's  practice  of  treating  woman  as  a  mere  plaything 
both  have  a  share  in  the  formation  of  her  character.  Grace 
Tranfield  is  the  best  type  of  the  advanced  woman ;  she  demands 
equality  of  opportunity  for  women,  rejects  the  "  lord  and  mas- 
ter "  theory,  and  fights  always  for  the  integrity  of  her  self- 
respect.  Between  these  two  women  stands  Leonard  Charteris, 
holding  the  average  young  cub's  cynical  ideas  about  women, 
sharpened  to  acuteness  through  the  intellectual  astuteness  of 
Bernard  Shaw.  Charteris,  in  his  bloodless  Don  Juanism,  is  the 
type  of  the  degenerate  male  flirt — the  pallid  prey  of  the  maladie 
du  Steele.  "  C'est  un  homme  qui  ne  fait  la  cour  aux  femmes 
ni  pour  le  bon  ni  pour  le  mauvais  motif,"  says  M.  Filon.  "  Que 
veut-il?  S'amuser.  Seulement — comme  on  l'a  dit  des  Anglais 
en  general — il  s'amuse  tristement;  il  y  a  dans  l'attitude  de  ce 
seducteur  glacial  et  degoute  quelque  chose  qui  n'est  pas  tres  viril. 
On  dit  la  societe  anglaise  infestee  de  ces  gens-la."  * 

*  M .  Bernard  Shaw  et  son  ThSdtre,  by  Augustin  Filon.    Revue  des  Deux 
Mondes,  November  15th,  1905;  p.  424. 

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GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Upon  the  mind  of  any  unprejudiced  person,  I  think,  The 
Philanderer  creates  the  impression  that  Shaw's  attitude  toward 
women  in  this  play  must  have  been  induced  by  unpleasant  per- 
sonal relations  with  women  prior  to  the  time  at  which  the  play 
/  was  written.  Many  people  paid  him  the  insult  of  recognizing 
him  in  Charteris ;  and  I  have  even  been  told  that  Shaw  was  tem- 
peramentally not  dissimilar  to  Charteris,  at  that  particular 
period.  The  play  is  marked  by  unnaturalness  and  immaturity 
at  every  turn ;  but  several  scenes  exhibit  great  nervous  strength. 
Mr.  Robert  Loraine  once  remarked  to  me  that,  in  his  opinion, 
the  first  act  of  The  Philanderer  was  unparalleled  in  its  veri- 
similitude, always  making  him  realize  the  truth  of  Ibsen's  dic- 
tum that  the  modern  stage  must  be  regarded  as  a  room  of 
which  one  wall  has  been  removed.  Mr.  Loraine's  impression  is 
fully  justified  by  the  fact  that  the  scene  is  a  more  or  less  accu- 
rate replica  of  a  scene  in  Mr.  Shaw's  own  life. 

As  a  play,  The  Philanderer  is  crude  and  amateurish,  revolv- 
ing upon  the  pivot  of  Charteris's  satire,  and  presenting  various 
features  in  turn — now  extravaganza,  now  broad  farce,  now 
comedy,  now  tragi-comedy.  With  all  its  brilliant  mental  vivi- 
section, the  conversation  of  Charteris  is  never  natural,  but  supra- 
natural;  the  utterly  gross  and  caddish  indecency  of  his 
exposures  would  never  be  tolerated  for  an  instant  in  polite  or 
even  respectable  society.  And  yet  Mr.  Shaw  once  vehemently 
assured  me :  "  Charteris  is  not  passionless,  not  unscrupulous, 
and  a  sincere,  not  a  pseudo,  Ibsenist " !  Cuthbertson  is  a  cari- 
cature of  Clement  Scott;  and,  in  virtually  the  same  words  used 
by  Scott  in  his  attacks  upon  Ibsen,  Cuthbertson  avows  that 
the  whole  modern  movement  is  abhorrent  to  him  "  because  his 
life  had  been  passed  in  witnessing  scenes  of  suffering  nobly 
endured  and  sacrifice  willingly  rendered  by  womanly  women 
and  manly  men."  The  mannerisms  of  Craven,  "  Now  really  "  in 
especial,  are  taken  directly,  Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me,  from  Mr. 
H.  M.  Hyndman,  the  English  Socialist  leader.  Dr.  Paramore 
is  the  puppet  of  broad  farce,  immune  to  all  humane  concern 
through  inoculation  with  the  deadly  germ  of  scientific  research ; 
while  Sylvia  is  merely  the  pert  little  soubrette.  The  inverted 
Gilbertism  of  Colonel  Craven's :  "  Do  you  mean  to  say  that  I  am 

302 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

expected  to  treat  my  daughter  the  same  as  I  would  any  other 
girl?  Well,  dash  me  if  I  will!"  faintly  strikes  the  note  of 
Falsacappa,  the  brigand  chief,  in  Meilhac  and  Halevy's  The 
Brigands:  "Marry  my  daughter  to  an  honest  man!  Never!" 
— a  phrase  with  which  Mr.  W.  S.  Gilbert  afterwards  did  such 
execution  in  The  Pirates  of  Penzance. 

When  The  Philanderer  was  published  in  1898,  the  public  was 
puzzled  and  astounded  to  read  an  "  attack  "  on  Ibsen  by  Ibsen's 
most  valiant  champion  in  England!  So  shocked  was  Mr. 
Archer  by  this  "  outrage  upon  art  and  decency  "  that  he  wanted 
to  "  cut "  his  colleague  and  friend  in  the  street.  The  Philan- 
derer thus  laid  the  foundation  of  Shaw's  reputation  as  a  cynic 
and  a  paradoxer.  It  is  chiefly  interesting  to-day  as  a  fore- 
shadowing and  promise  of  the  lines  of  development  of  the  later 
dramatist.  Superficially,  this  play  mirrors  the  glaring,  even 
tragic  contrast  between  faddist  idealization  of  Ibsen,  and  sin- 
cere realization  of  Ibsenism.  But,  in  the  light  of  subsequent 
events,  the  play  rather  teaches  that  Charteris  as  male  flirt  is  the 
model  for  the  sketchy  Valentine,  that  Julia  is  the  Ann  Whitefield 
of  a  more  natural  and  less  self-conscious  phase.  Throughout 
the  play  we  are  reminded  of  the  brutal  laughter  of  Wedekind, 
the  sardonic  humour  of  Becque,  and,  in  places,  even  of  the  dark 
levity  of  Ibsen  himself.  The  portrayal  of  Julia  is  remarkable, 
in  spite  of  the  damaging  error  of  representing  her  as  fit  sub- 
ject for  the  police  court — mentally  arrested  in  development, 
victim  of  violent  "  brain-storms,"  unscrupulous,  treacherous, 
deceitful,  feline.  And  yet,  by  some  marvellous  trick  of  sub- 
tle art,  the  author  has  caused  this  creature  to  win  our  pro- 
found sympathy  in  the  end.  After  all,  her  love  for  Charteris 
is  genuine  and  sincere;  and  the  scene  between  Grace  and 
Julia,  after  the  latter  has  accepted  Dr.  Paramore,  is  pro- 
foundly touching: 

Grace  (speaking  in  a  low  voice  to  Julia  alone) :  So  you 
have  shown  him  that  you  can  do  without  him!  Now 
I  take  back  everything  I  said.  Will  you  shake  hands 
with  me?  (Julia  gives  her  hand  painfully,  with  her 
face  averted.)  They  think  this  a  happy  ending, 
303 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Julia — these  men — our  lords  and  masters!     {The  two 
stand  silent,  hand  in  hand.) 

The  human  drama  of  this  play,  merely  sketched  though  it 
be,  is  the  conflict  in  Julia's  soul  between  her  violent  passion  for 
Charteris  and  her  true  impulse  toward  self-respect.  The 
quintessence  of  her  tragedy  is  expressed  in  her  last  tilt  with 
Charteris.  He  walks  up  to  congratulate  her,  proffering  his 
hand. 

Julia  (exhausted,  allowing  herself  to  take  it)  :  You  are 

right.     I  am  a  worthless  woman. 
Charteris    (triumphant,  and  gaily  remonstrating):  Oh, 

why? 
Julia:  Because  I  am  not  brave  enough  to  kill  you. 

Shaw's  next  play,  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession,  completed  his 
first  cycle  of  economic  studies  in  dramatic  form;  and  at  one 
stroke  demonstrated  Shaw  to  be  a  dramatist  of  marked  powers 
and  ability.  Shaw's  account  of  the  genesis  of  this  play  is  an 
important  link  in  its  history.  In  regard  to  the  title,  Shaw 
says :  "  The  tremendously  effective  scene — which  a  baby  could 
write  if  its  sight  were  normal — in  which  she  (Mrs.  Warren) 
justifies  herself,  is  only  a  paraphrase  of  a  scene  in  a  novel  of 
my  own,  '  Cashel  Byron's  Profession '  (hence  the  title,  Mrs. 
Warren's  Profession),  in  which  a  prize-fighter  shows  how  he 
was  driven  into  the  ring  exactly  as  Mrs.  Warren  was  driven 
on  the  streets."  Shaw  met  the  charge  of  indebtedness  to  Ibsen 
and  De  Maupassant  with  the  statement  that,  if  a  dramatist 
living  in  the  world  of  multifarious  interests,  duties  and  experi- 
ences in  which  he  lived  has  to  go  to  books  for  his  ideas  and 
his  inspiration,  he  must  be  both  blind  and  deaf.  "  Most 
dramatists  are,"  he  laconically  added.  So  Mrs.  Warren's  Pro- 
fession came  about  in  this  way: 

"  Miss  Janet  Achurch  mentioned  to  me  a  novel  by  some 
French  writer  as  having  a  dramatizable  story  in  it.     It 

304 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

being  hopeless  to  get  me  to  read  anything,  she  told  me  the 
story,  which  was  ultra-romantic.  I  said,  '  Oh,  I  will  work 
out  the  real  truth  about  that  mother  some  day.'  In  the 
following  autumn  I  was  the  guest  of  a  lady  of  very  dis- 
tinguished ability — one  whose  knowledge  of  English  social 
types  is  as  remarkable  as  her  command  of  industrial  and 
political  questions.  She  suggested  that  I  should  put  on  the 
stage  a  real  modern  lady  of  the  governing  class — not  the 
sort  of  thing  that  theatrical  and  critical  authorities  im- 
agine such  a  lady  to  be.  I  did  so;  and  the  result  was 
Miss  Vivie  Warren,  who  has  laid  the  intellect  of  Mr.  Wil- 
liam Archer  in  ruins.  ...  I  finally  persuaded  Miss 
Achurch,  who  is  clever  with  her  pen,  to  dramatize  the  story 
herself  on  the  original  romantic  lines.  Her  version  is 
called  Mrs.  Daintry's  Daughter.  That  is  the  history  of 
Mrs.  Warren's  Profession.  I  never  dreamt  of  Ibsen  or  De 
Maupassant,  any  more  than  a  blacksmith  shoeing  a  horse 
thinks  of  the  blacksmith  in  the  next  county."  * 

Of  course,  one  blacksmith  cannot  possibly  know  what  another 
blacksmith  in  the  next  county  is  doing.  But  Shaw  was  not 
only  aware  of  what  Ibsen  was  doing  and  had  done:  he  had 
actually  written  a  remarkable  analysis  of  Ibsen's  plays  and, 
with  his  utmost  critical  skill,  defended  Ibsen's  art  and  philos- 
ophy, on  the  platform  and  in  the  press,  against  the  ablest 
critics  in  England.  As  clearly  as  Ghosts  does  Mrs.  Warren's 
Profession  reveal  the  truth  of  George  Eliot's  dictum  that  conse- 
quences are  unpitying;  a  true  drama  of  catastrophe,  employ- 
ing Ibsen's  peculiar  retrospective  method,  Shaw's  play  exem- 
plifies, in  Amiel's  words,  the  fatality  of  the  consequences  which 
follow  every  human  act.  Nora  as  daughter,  instead  of  Nora 
as  wife,  Vivie  leaves  her  home  under  the  same  profound  con- 
viction of  her  duty  to  herself  as  a  human  being — a  duty  in- 
finitely more  obligatory  than  any  she  may  be  conventionally 
imagined  to  owe  to  a  Magdalen  mother,  who  has  educated  and 

*  Mr.  Shaw's  Method  and  Secret,  letter  to  the  editor  of  the  Daily 
Chronicle,  April  30th,  1898,  signed  G.  Bernard  Shaw.  In  the  first  draft, 
the  play  was  entitled  Mrs.  Jarman's  Profession. 

305 


/ 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

purposes  to  support  her  out  of  the  profits  of  a  profession  which 
as  its  roots  in  the  most  hideous  of  all  social  evils.* 
Mrs.  Warren's  Profession  towers  high  above  his  first  two 
plays,  and  places  Shaw  in  the  front  rank  of  contemporary  dra- 
matic craftsmen.  Its  strength  proceeds  from  the  depth  dis- 
played in  the  consideration  of  the  motives  which  prompt  to 
action,  the  intellectual  and  emotional  crises  eventuating  from  the 
fierce  clash  of  personalities  and  the  sardonically  unconscious  self- 
scourging  of  the  characters  themselves.  The  scenes  are  so  ad- 
mirably ordered,  the  procedure  so  swift,  the  situations  so 
charged  with  significance  that  one  can  find  little  to  wonder  at 
in  Mr.  Cunninghame  Graham's  characterization  of  Mrs.  War- 
ren's Profession  as  "  the  best  that  has  been  written  in  English 
in  our  generation."  Tense,  nervous,  vigorous,  the  great  scenes 
are  full  of  "  that  suppleness,  that  undulation  of  emotional 
process,"  which  Mr.  Archer  pronounces  one  of  the  unmistakable 
tokens  of  dramatic  mastery.  The  tremendous  dramatic  power 
of  the  specious  logic  with  which  Mrs.  Warren  defends  her 
course ;  the  sardonic  irony  of  the  parting  between  mother  and 
daughter!  Goethe  said  of  Moliere  that  he  chastises  men  by 
drawing  them  just  as  they  are.  True  descendant  of  Moliere, 
whom  he  once  declared  to  be  worth  a  thousand  Shakespeares, 
Shaw  wields  upon  vice  the  shrieking  scourge,  not  of  the  preacher, 
but  of  the  dramatist.  Out  of  the  mouths  of  the  characters 
themselves  proceeds  their  own  condemnation.  Devastating  in 
its  consummate  irony  is  the  passage  in  which  Mrs.  Warren,  con- 
ventional to  her  heart's  core,  lauds  her  own  respectability ;  and 
that  in  which  Crofts  propounds  his  own  code  of  honour: 

Crofts  :  My  code  is  a  simple  one,  and,  I  think,  a  good  one : 
Honour  between  man  and  man;  fidelity  between 

*  It  should  be  clearly  pointed  out  that  Shaw  is  in  no  sense  indebted  to 
Ibsen  for  dissatisfaction  with  the  existent  social  order.  The  facts  of 
Shaw's  life  disprove  the  statement  of  Dr.  Georg  Brandes  {Bernard  Shaw's 
Teater,  in  Politikken,  Copenhagen,  December  29th,  1902):  "What  Shaw 
chiefly  owes  to  Ibsen,  whose  harbinger  he  was,  seems  to  be  a  tendency 
towards  rebellion  against  commonly  recognized  prejudices,  dramatic  as  well 
as  social."  Shaw's  attacks  upon  modern  capitalistic  society,  both  in  Wid- 
owers' Houses  and  in  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession,  are  the  immediate  fruits 
of  his  Socialism  and  his  economic  studies. 

306 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

man  and  woman;  and  no  cant  about  this  or  that 
religion,  but  an  honest  belief  that  things  are  mak- 
ing for  good  on  the  whole. 

Vivie  (with  biting  irony) :  "  A  power,  not  ourselves,  that 
makes  for  righteousness,"  eh? 

Ceofts  (taking  her  seriously):  Oh,  certainly,  not  our- 
selves, of  course.    You  understand  what  I  mean. 

Dr.  Brandes  called  Ibsen's  Ghosts,  if  not  the  greatest  achieve- 
ment, at  any  rate  the  noblest  action  of  the  poet's  career.  Mrs. 
Warren's  Profession  is  not  only  what  Brunetiere  would  call  a 
work  of  combat :  it  is  an  act — an  act  of  declared  hostility  against 
capitalistic  society,  the  inertia  of  public  opinion,  the  lethargy 
of  the  public  conscience,  and  the  criminality  of  a  social  order 
which  begets  such  appalling  social  conditions.  Into  this  play 
Shaw  has  poured  all  his  Socialistic  passion  for  a  more  just  and 
humane  social  order. 

As  an  arraignment  of  social  conditions,  the  play  is  tre- 
mendous. As  a  work  of  art,  it  presents  marked  deficiencies. 
Shaw  sought  to  dispose  of  one  charge — that  Vivie  is  merely 
Shaw  in  petticoats — in  these  words :  "  One  of  my  female  char- 
acters, who  drinks  whisky  and  smokes  cigars  and  reads  detective 
stories  and  regards  the  fine  arts,  especially  music,  as  an  insuf- 
ferable and  unintelligible  waste  of  time,  has  been  declared  by 
my  friend,  Mr.  William  Archer,  to  be  an  exact  and  authentic 
portrait  of  myself,  on  no  other  grounds  in  the  world  except 
that  she  is  a  woman  of  business  and  not  a  creature  of  romantic 
impulse."  It  is  clear  that  this  is  not  a  satisfactory  answer 
to  Mr.  Archer's  charge;  but  even  in  more  minor  details,  the 
play  is  open  to  criticism:  the  futility  of  Praed,  save  as  a  bare- 
faced confidant;  the  cheap  melodrama  of  Frank  and  the  rifle; 
the  series  of  coincidences  culminating  in  the  Rev.  Mr.  Gard- 
ner's miserably  confused  "  Miss  Vavasour,  I  believe !  "  at  the 
end  of  the  first  act.  More  important  still,  as  Mr.  Archer  once 
pointed  out,*  there  is  nothing  of  the  inevitable  in  the  meeting 

*  Study  and  Stage,  by  William  Archer,  in  the  Daily  News,  June  21st, 
1902. 

307 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

of  Frank  and  Vivie,  despite  Shaw's  assertion  that  "  the  chil- 
dren of  any  polyandrous  group  will,  when  they  grow  up,  inevita- 
bly be  confronted  with  the  insoluble  problem  of  their  own  possi- 
ble consanguinity."  Had  Vivie  not  happened  to  take  lodgings 
at  that  particular  farmhouse  in  Surrey,  she  would  never  have 
seen  or  heard  of  Frank,  and  the  "  inevitable  "  would  never  have 
happened.  But  this  single  lapse  of  logic,  together  with  the 
other  defects  mentioned,  are  comparatively  venial  faults — 
which  Shaw  probably  classes  among  those  "  relapses  into  stagi- 
ness  "  betraying,  as  he  confessed,  "  the  young  playwright  and 
the  old  playgoer  in  this  early  work  of  mine." 
/It  is  the  predominance  of  a  certain  hard,  sheer  rationalism, 

V/and  a  defiant,  irresponsible  levity  in  places,  which  mars  the 
artistic  unity  of  the  play,  and  denies  it  the  exalted  rank  to 
which  it  well-nigh  attains.  At  the  fundamental  morality  of  the 
play  there  is  no  cause  to  cavil.  Instead  of  maintaining  an  asso- 
ciation in  the  imagination  of  the  spectators  between  prostitution 
and  fashionable  beauty,  luxury  and  refinement,  as  do  La  Dame 
aux  Camellias,  The  Second  Mrs.  Tanqueray,  Iris,  Zaza  and 
countless  other  modern  plays,  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession  exhibits 
the  life  of  the  courtesan  in  all  its  arid  actuality,  and  inculcates 
a  lesson  of  the  sternest  morality.  It  is  because  she  is  what  she 
is  that  Mrs.  Warren  loses  her  daughter  irrevocably.  In  gen- 
eral, the  logic  of  the  play  is  unimpeachable ;  but  the  rationalist 
character  imparted  to  the  conversations  of  the  principal  char- 
acters by  their  persistence  in  arguing  everything  out  logically  , 
gives  the  play  a  sort  of  glacial  rigidity.  The  principal  defect  V 
of  the  play  is  the  discrepancy  between  the  tragic  seriousness 
of  the  theme  and  the  occasional  depressing  levity  of  its  treat- 
ment. Consonance  between  theme  and  tone  is  the  prime  requisite 
of  a  work  of  art.  This  remarkable  play  falls  just  short  of  ^/^ 
real  greatness  because  its  whimsical,  facetious,  irrepressible  au- 
thor was  unable  to  discipline  himself  to  artistic  self-restraint. 
Mrs.  Warren's  Profession  is  calculated  to  produce  an  almost 
unendurable  effect  because,  as  Mr.  Archer  wisely  says,  Bernard 
Shaw  is  "  the  slave  of  his  sense  of  the  ridiculous." 

V  The  close  of  the  year  1893  marks  the  beginning  of  a  new 

308 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

i^phase  in  the  evolution  of  Shaw's  art  as  a  dramatist.  As 
Brunetiere  said  to  the  Symbolists,  so  the  English  public  said 
to  Mr.  Grein  and  his  supporters  of  the  Independent  Theatre 
Society :  "  Gentlemen,  produce  your  masterpieces ! "  Shaw 
eagerly  took  up  the  case;  and  rather  than  let  it  collapse,  he 
"  manufactured  the  evidence."  His  first  play  met  with  a  succes 
de  scandcde;  his  second  failed  of  production ;  and  his  third,  the 
expected  "  masterpiece,"  was  debarred  by  the  censorship.  The 
union  of  economics  and  Socialism  in  thesis-plays  met  with  no 
favour  at  the  hands  of  the  British  public.  Shaw  was  forced  to 
relinquish  for  the  time  being  his  purpose  of  reforming  the  public 
through  the  medium  of  the  stage.  His  original  disavowal  of  any 
intent  to  amuse  the  public  went  for  naught  in  default  of  a 
platform  from  which  to  deliver  instruction. 

Shaw's  social  determinism,  as  M.  Auguste  Hamon  once  ex- 
pressed it  to  me,  is  "  absolute " :  his  fundamental  Socialism 
throws  the  blame,  not  upon  Trench,  Charteris,  Crofts  and  Mrs. 
Warren,  as  individuals,  but  upon  the  prevailing  social  order, 
the  capitalistic  regime,  which  offers  them  as  alternatives,  not 
morality  and  immorality,  but  two  sorts  of  immorality.*  Upon 
each  individual  in  his  audience,  whether  in  the  study  or  in  the 
theatre,  Shaw  threw  the  burden  of  responsibility  for  defective 
social  organization,  and  for  those  social  horrors  which  can 
only  be  mitigated,  and,  perhaps,  ultimately  abolished,  by  public 
opinion,  public  action  and  public  contribution.  Mr.  Shaw  once 
described  this  play  to  me  as  a  faithful  presentment  of  the 
"  economic  basis  of  modern  commercial  prostitution."  But  the 
managers  well  knew  that  the  public  was  averse  to  being  forced 
to  face  the  unpleasant  facts  set  forth  in  Shaw's  three  "  un- 
pleasant "  plays.  The  rigour  of  the  censorship  and  prevailing 
theatrical  conditions  in  London  were  hostile  to  Shaw's  initial 
efforts. 

"  You  cannot  write  three  plays  and  then  stop,"  Shaw  has 

•Compare  The  Author's  Apology,  the  preface  to  the  Stage  Society  edi- 
tion of  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession  (Grant  Richards,  London,  1902),  pp. 
xxvii.  and  xxviii.  in  especial;  and  also  Mainly  About  Myself,  the  preface  to 
Vol.  I.  of  Plays,  Pleasant  and  Unpleasant,  pp.  xxix-xxxi.  in  the  American 
edition  (H.  S.  Stone  and  Co.,  Chicago,  1902). 

309 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

explained.     Accordingly,  for  obvious  reasons,  social  determin- 
ism ceased  to  be  the  motive  force  of  Shaw's  dramas ;  and  he 
began   to   write   plays    concerned   more   particularly   with   the     J 
comedy  and  tragedy  of  individual  life  and  destiny.     Shaw  did  * 
not  cease  to  be   a  satirist,  did  not  desist   from  his   effort  to 
startle   the  public   out   of   its   bland   complacency:   he   merely 
diverted  for  the  time  being  the  current  of  his  satire  from  social 
abuses  to  the  shams,  pretences,  illusions  and  self-deceptions  of 
individual  life.     Having  learned  to  beware  of  solemnity,  Shaw  ^ 
makes  the  satiric  jest  his  point  of  departure.     From  this  time 
forward  he  occupies  and  operates  upon  a  new  plane.     He  has 
ceased   to   be   purely   the   social   scavenger.      Bernard    Shaw's 
comedy  of  manners  and  of  character  now  enters  into  the  history 
of  British  drama. 

Arms  and  the  Man — obviously  deriving  its  title  from  the  |/ 
Arma  virumque  cano  of  the  opening  line  of  Virgil's  2Eneid — 
is  one  of  Shaw's  most  delightful  comedies — a  genuine  comedy 
of  character  and  yet  theatrical  in  the  true  sense,  Dr.  Brandes 
has  called  it.  Not  the  least  of  its  virtues  is  the  implicitness  of 
its  philosophy;  perhaps  this  is  one  reason  why  Mr.  Shaw  (as 
he  lately  remarked  to  me)  now  considers  it  a  very  slight  and 
immature  production !  From  one  point  of  view,  this  play  may 
be  regarded  as  a  study  of  the  psychology  of  the  military  pro- 
fession.* From  another  point  of  view — the  standpoint  of  the 
regular  playgoer — the  play  has  for  its  dramatic  essence  the 
collision  of  romantic  illusion  with  prosaic  reality. 

To  many  people  the  play  appeared  as  a  "  damning  sneer  at 
military  courage,"  an  attempted  demonstration  of  the  astound- 
ing thesis  that  heroism  is  merely  a  sublimated  form  of  cow- 
ardice !  When  King  Edward — then  Prince  of  Wales — witnessed 
a  performance  of  the  play,  he  could  not  be  induced  to  smile 
even  once ;  and  afterwards  it  was  reported  that  "  his  Royal 
Highness  regretted  that  the  play  should  have  shown  so  dis- 
respectful an  attitude  toward  the  Army  as  was  betrayed  by 

*  Compare  La  Psychologie  du  Militaire  Professionel,  by  Auguste  Hamon, 
which  appeared  in  November,  1893.  I  have  no  reason  to  believe  that 
Shaw  was  under  any  indebtedness  to  this  book  in  writing  Arms  and  the 
Man. 

310 


AVENUE 

THEATRE.   NORTHUMBERLAND  ^AVENUE,   CHARINB  CROSS.  W.C. 
Manager  *"""        Mr  C.  T    H.  HELMSLKY 

A  CHORUS  OF  APPROVAL 

PROM      THE 

ENTIRE    PRESS. 


TEN    MINUTES    TO    NINE 

ARMS  z  MAN 


BY  BERNARD  SHAW 

11 -"mi  ii  i   Mm  iixr^n.i.niT.  <nrTiinW>M 


*FECSS      WORLD     SAYS 

"There  is  not  the  least  doubt 
that  'Arms  and  the  Man*  is  one 
of  the  most  amusing  entertainments 
at  present  before  the  Public.  It  is 
quite  as  funny  as  '  CHARLEY'S  AUHTF 
or  'THE  WEW  BOY1;  we  laughed  at 
it  wildly,  hysterically;  and  I  exhort 
the  reader  to  go  and  do  likewise." 

THE      SVwA.SK     SATS:- 

"My  sides  are  still  aching  with 
laughter^ 

VAKTIT.1?      PAIR     SAYS- 

"  Everybody  ought  to  go  and  see 
this  Play/; &__ 

NOTE.- For  remainder,  please  see  Advertisement  in  Morning  PaperB'-the  full- 
Lsi  being  too  long-  to  quote  here. 


Playbill  of  Arms  and  the  Man. 
Avenue  Theatre,  London.    April  21st,  1894.    First  production  on  any  stage. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  character  of  the  chocolate-cream  soldier."  *  Bluntschli  is 
a  natural  realist,  to  whom  long  military  service  has  taught  the 
salutary  lesson  that  bullets  are  to  be  avoided,  not  sought ;  that 
the  main  object  of  the  efficient  soldier  is  not  the  bubble  reputa- 
tion at  the  cannon's  mouth,  but  practical  success  and  the 
preservation  of  life.  Shaw  had  never  seen  service,  never  par- 
ticipated in  a  battle — save  the  battle  of  Trafalgar  Square. 
•'But  he  happened  to  be  a  modern  realist  with  a  tremendous  fund 
of  satire  and  fantasy.  And  although  he  had  to  get  his  data  at 
second  hand,  he  experienced  no  difficulty  in  finding  abundant 
material,  to  authenticate  his  presentment  of  the  common-sense 
soldier,  in  great  realistic  fiction  such  as  Zola's  La  Debacle,  in 
classic  autobiography  such  as  Marbot's  Memoirs,  and  in  the 
recorded  experiences  of  English  and  American  generals,  notably 
Lord  Wolseley  and  General  Horace  Porter.  People  were  in- 
clined to  laugh  Shaw's  play  out  of  court  as  an  exercise  no  more 
serious  than  that  of  a  "  mowing  down  military  ideals  with  volleys 
of  chocolate  creams."  Yet  Shaw  knew  a  man  who  lived  for  two 
days  in  the  Shipka  Pass  on  chocolate;  while  some  years  later, 
during  the  Boer  war,  Queen  Victoria  presented  every  soldier 
in  the  British  army  with  a  ration  of  chocolate — chocolate  which 
Liebig  pronounced  the  most  perfect  food  in  the  world.  The 
idea  of  an  officer  carrying  an  empty  pistol!  And  yet  Lord 
Wolseley  mentions  Wo  officers  who  seldom  carried  any  weapons, 
and  one  of  them  was  Gordon.  Bluntschli's  hysterical  condition 
in  the  first  act  finds  its  analogue  in  General  Porter's  account 
describing  the  condition  of  his  troops  after  a  battle.  And 
Bluntschli's  delightful  description  of  a  cavalry  charge  finds  its 
analogue,  not  in  the  Tennysonian  Charge  of  the  Light  Brigade, 
but  in  the  account  of  this  charge  as  given  by  the  popular  his- 
torian Kinglake;  and,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  Shaw's  description 

*  Compare  the  reminiscences  on  the  Avenue  Theatre  production,  by 
Mr.  Yorke  Stephens,  who  played  the  part  of  Bluntschli;  Music  and  the 
Drama,  in  the  Daily  Chronicle,  November  6th,  1906.  It  was  at  the  premiere 
at  the  Avenue  Theatre  that  Shaw,  called  before  the  audience,  found  him- 
self disarmed  by  lack  of  opposition.  A  solitary  malcontent  in  the  gallery 
began  to  boo:  Bernard  was  himself  again.  Looking  up  at  the  belligerent 
oppositionist,  he  said  with  an  engaging  smile:  "My  friend,  I  quite  agree 
with  you — but  what  are  we  two  against  so  many?" 

312 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

was  taken  almost  verbatim  from  an  account  given  privately 
to  a  friend  of  Shaw's  by  an  officer  who  served  in  the  Franco- 
Prussian  war.  The  catalogue  might  easily  be  extended;  suffice 
it  to  say  that,  irrespective  of  the  totality  of  impression,  there 
can  be  no  question  of  the  credibility  of  the  separate  incidents 
in  the  play,  which  furnished  such  ready  targets  for  critical 
marksmanship.* 

w^From  the  dramatic  side,  Arms  and  the  Man  is  far  less  a 
"  realistic  "  comedy  than  a  satiric  exposure  of  the  illusions  of 
warfare,  of  love,  of  romantic  idealism.  Of  course,  Shaw  im- 
parts an  air  of  pleasing  likelihood  to  the  racial  traits  or  char- 
acters, and  the  local  colour  of  the  scenes;  and,  as  Dr.  Brandes 
has  remarked,  in  Bernard  Shaw's  choice  of  themes  one  feels 
the  mental  suppleness  of  the  modern  critic,  with  his  ability  to 
throw  himself  sympathetically  into  different  historic  periods  and 
into  the  minds  of  different  races.  In  Arms  and  the  Man,  "  the 
whole  environment  is  characteristic,  the  people  of  most  refine- 
ment being  proud  of  washing  themselves  '  almost  every  day,'  and 
of  owning  a  '  library,'  the  only  one  in  the  district.  Everything 
smacks  of  the  Balkan  Peninsula,  even  to  the  waiting-maid  and 
the  man-servant,  with  their  half -Asiatic  mingling  of  forward- 
ness and  servility."  t  To  be  accurate,  Shaw  sketches  in  his 
milieu  with  the  very  lightest  of  strokes.     Bluntschli  might  just 

*  Compare  Shaw's  brilliant  article,  A  Dramatic  Realist  to  His  Critics,  in 
the  New  Review,  September,  1894,  appearing  two  months  after  the  close  of 
the  run  of  Arms  and  the  Man  at  the  Avenue  Theatre.  In  A  Word  about 
Stepniak,  in  To-Morrow,  February,  1896,  Mr.  Shaw  says:  "He  (Stepniak) 
studiously  encouraged  me  to  think  well  of  my  own  work,  and  went  into 
the  questions  of  Bulgarian  manners  and  customs  for  me  when  I  was  pre- 
paring my  play  Arms  and  the  Man  for  the  stage  as  if  the  emancipation  of 
Russia  was  a  matter  of  comparatively  little  importance.  ...  To  him  I  owe 
the  assistance  I  received  from  that  Bulgarian  admiral  in  whose  existence 
the  public,  regarding  Bulgaria  as  an  inland  State,  positively  declined  to 
believe." 

t  Der  Dramatiker  Bernard  Shaw :  in  Gestalten  und  Gedanken,  by  Georg 
Brandes,  Miinchen-Langen,  1903.  "  Human  nature  is  very  much  the  same, 
always  and  everywhere,"  Shaw  explained.  "  And  when  I  go  over  my  play 
to  put  the  details  right  I  find  there  is  surprisingly  little  to  alter.  Arms  and 
the  Man,  for  example,  was  finished  before  I  had  decided  where  to  set  the 
scene,  and  then  it  only  wanted  a  word  here  and  there  to  put  matters 
straight.    You  see,  I  know  human  nature"! 

313 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

as  well  have  served  in  a  war  between  Peru  and  Chili,  or  Greece 
and  Turkey;  while  for  all  practical  purposes,  the  scene  might 
just  as  well  have  been  laid  along  the  coasts  of  Bohemia.  I  have 
long  contended  that  Arms  and  the  Man  was  not  a  play, 
but  a  light  opera ;  and  now  comes  Oscar  Straus  to  compose 
the  music  for  the  libretto  adapted  from  Shaw's  Bulgarian 
fantasy. 

Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me  that  his  two  friends,  Sidney  Webb, 
the  solid  and  the  practical,  and  Cunninghame  Graham,  the 
hidalgesque  and  fantastic,  suggested  the  contrast  between 
Bluntschli  and  SaranofF.  "  The  identity,"  he  explained,  "  only 
lies  on  the  surface,  of  course.  I  But  the  true  dramatist  must' 
always  find  his  contrasts  in  real  life.")  And  it  will  be  recalled 
that  the  rodomontade  placed  with  such  ludicrous  effect  in  the 
mouth  of  the  Bulgarian  braggadocio,  had  actually  been  used, 
with  equally  telling  effect,  by  Mr.  Cunninghame  Graham  in  a 
speech  in  the  House  of  Commons.  Shaw  promptly  stole  the 
potent  phrase,  "  I  never  withdraw,"  for  the  sake  of  its  perfect 
style,  and  used  it  as  a  cockade  for  Sergius  the  Sublime.  The 
great  charm  of  the  play  consists  in  the  disillusionment  of  the 
romantic  Raina  and  the  sham-idealist  Saranoff  by  the  practical 
realism  of  the  common-sense  Bluntschli.  A  Bulgarian  Byron, 
Sergius  is  perpetually  mocked  by  the  disparity  between  his 
imaginative  ideals  and  the  disillusions  which  continually  sting 
his  sensitive  nature.  And  the  true  tragedy  of  the  idealist,  in  the 
Shavian  frame  of  mind,  is  summed  up  in  his  words,  "  Damna- 
tion !  mockery  everywhere !  Everything  that  I  think  is  mocked 
by  everything  that  I  do."    And  Shaw  himself  has  said : 

"  My  Bulgarian  hero,  quite  as  much  as  Helmer  in  A 
DolVs  House,  was  a  hero  shown  from  the  modern  woman's 
point  of  view.  I  complicated  the  psychology  by  making 
him  catch  glimpse  after  glimpse  of  his  o>vn  aspect  and 
conduct  from  this  point  of  view  himself,  as  all  men  are 
beginning  to  do  more  or  less  now,  the  result,  of  course, 
being  the  most  horrible  dubiety  on  his  part  as  to  whether 
he  was  really  a  brave  and  chivalrous  gentleman,  or  a  hum- 
bug and  a  moral  coward.     His  actions,  equally  of  course, 


^ 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

were  hopelessly  irreconcilable  with  either  theory.  Need 
I  add  that  if  the  straightforward  Helmer,  a  very  honest 
and  orinary  middle-class  man  misled  by  false  ideals  of 
womanhood,  bewildered  the  public  and  was  finally  set  down 
as  a  selfish  cad  by  all  the  Helmers  in  the  audience,  a  fortiori 
my  introspective  Bulgarian  never  had  a  chance,  and  was 
dismissed,  with  but  moderately  spontaneous  laughter,  as  a 
swaggering  impostor  of  the  species  for  which  contemporary 
slang  has  invented  the  term  e  bounder  '  ?  "  * 

Arms  and  the  Man  has  laid  its  hold  upon  the  modern  imagina- 
tion, and  has  been  produced  all  over  the  world.  What  more 
delightful  than  to  have  seen  Bluntschli  interpreted  by  the 
actors  of  our  generation — by  Mansfield,  with  his  quaintly  dry 
cynicism,  by  Jarno,  with  a  humour  racy  of  the  soil,  by  Mantzius, 
with  scholarly  accuracy,  by  Sommerstorff,  with  a  touch  of  ro- 
mance!— by  Loraine,  Nhil,  Stephens,  Daly.  It  is  quite  true 
that  the  play  is  loose  in  form,  oscillating  between  comedy  and 
fantastic  farce,  and  that  even  now  it  is  already  beginning  to 
"  date."  But  its  fantasy,  its  satire,  and  its  genial  philosophy 
will  amply  suffice  to  give  it  a  long  lease  on  life.f  Shaw's  own 
confidence  in  his  power  as  a  dramatist  and  in  the  future  of  the 
play  is  humorously  expressed  in  characteristic  style  in  the  fol- 

*  From  Shaw's  preface  to  Mr.  Archer's  The  Theatrical  World  of  1894, 
pp.  xxvii-xxviii.  In  view  of  the  interest  manifested  in  Arms  and  the 
Man  at  the  time  of  its  first  production  in  1894,  Mr.  Archer  requested  Mr. 
Shaw  to  say  something  about  it  in  this  preface. 

" 't  Arms  and  the  Man  has,  most  appropriately,  furnished  the  "book" 
.for  a  comic  opera,  entitled  The  Chocolate  Soldier,  written  by  Bernauer  and 
Jacobson,  music  by  Oscar  Straus,  the  popular  composer.  It  was  to  be 
expected  that  there  would  be  many  "  comic "  attractions  in  the  adaptation 
of  Mr.  Shaw's  play.  Of  course,  all  the  complications,  such  as  the  incident 
of  the  incriminating  photograph,  are  multiplied  by  three:  Nicola  disappears 
and  Louka  makes  way  for  Mascha,  now  the  cousin  of  Raina.  In  the  end 
all  are  happily  mated.  In  consequence  of  the  "  comic  variations  "  from  the 
original  play,  Mr.  Shaw  insisted  that  the  programme  contain  a  frank 
apology  for  this  "unauthorized  parody  of  one  of  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw's 
comedies."  First  successfully  produced  at  the  Theater  des  Westens,  Ber- 
lin, 1909,  The  Chocolate  Soldier,  both  for  the  borrowed,  if  parodied,  clever- 
ness, and  the  delightful  music,  has  since  won  great  popularity  through  the 
productions  of  Mr.  F.  C.  Whitney  (English  version  by  Mr.  Stanislaus 
Stange),  in  New  York  (May,  1910)  and  London  (September,  1910). 

315 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

lowing  letter  written  in  response  to  an  apologetic  note  from 
his  American  agent,  Miss  Elisabeth  Marbury,  accompanying  a 
meagre  remittance  for  royalties  on  Arms  and  the  Man: 

"  Rapacious  Elisabeth  Marbury, 

"  What  do  you  want  me  to  make  a  fortune  for?  Don't 
you  know  that  the  draft  you  sent  me  will  permit  me  to 
live  and  preach  Socialism  for  six  months?  The  next  time 
you  have  so  large  an  amount  to  remit,  please  send  it  to  me 
by  instalments,  or  you  will  put  me  to  the  inconvenience  of 
having  a  bank  account.  What  do  you  mean  by  giving  me 
advice  about  writing  a  play  with  a  view  to  the  box-office 
receipts?  I  shall  continue  writing  just  as  I  do  now  for  the 
next  ten  years.  After  that  we  can  wallow  in  the  gold 
poured  at  our  feet  by  a  dramatically  regenerated  public." 

Arms  and  the  Man  is  an  injunction  to  found  our  institutions, 
in  Shaw's  little-understood  phrase,  not  on  "  the  ideals  suggested 
to  our  imagination  by  our  half-satisfied  passions,"  but  on  a 
"genuinely  scientific  natural  history." 

•  A  distinguished  dramatic  critic  once  said  to  me  that  he  re- 
garded all  of  Shaw's  works  as  derivative  literature.  Shaw's 
first  three  plays  were  traced  to  Ibsen,  to  De  Maupassant,  to 
Strindberg ;  and  won  for  him  the  flattering  title  of  the  "  second- 
hand Brummagem  Ibsen  "  (William  Winter)  !  And  after  wit- 
nessing two  acts  of  Arms  and  the  Man  at  the  Avenue  Theatre, 
Mr.  Archer  began  to  have  a  misgiving  that  he  had  wandered 
by  mistake  into  The  Palace  of  Truth.  The  relation  of  the  art 
of  Bernard  Shaw  to  the  art  of  W.  S.  Gilbert  is  one  of  much 
delicate  intricacy;  and  deserves  more  than  casual  mention. 
Shaw  has  declared  that  those  who  regard  the  function  of  a 
writer  as  "  creative  "  are  the  most  illiterate  of  dupes,  that  in 
his  business  he  knows  me  and  te,  not  meum  and  tuum,  and  that 
he  himself  is  "  a  crow  who  has  followed  many  plows."  In  a 
vein  of  mocking  acknowledgment,  Shaw  once  spoke  of  the  seri- 
ousness with  which  he  had  pondered  the  jests  of  W.  S.  Gilbert. 
^  A  careful  critical  examination  of  the  methods  of  Shaw  and 
Gilbert  reveals  the  undoubted  resemblance,  as  well  as  the  funda- 

316 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

mental  dissimilarity,  of  these  two  satiric  interpreters  of  human 
nature.* 

One  particular  incident  in  Arms  and  the  Man  seems  to  derive 
directly  from  an  incident  in  Gilbert's  Engaged.  The  scene  in 
which  Nicola  advises  Louka,  his  betrothed,  to  gain  a  hold  over 
Sergius,  marry  him  ultimately,  and  so  "  come  to  be  one  of  my 
grandest  customers,  instead  of  only  being  my  wife  and  costing 
me  money,"  is  but  a  paraphrase  and  inversion  of  that  ludicrous 
scene  in  Engaged,  in  which  "  puir  little  Maggie  Macfarlane  " 
advises  her  lover,  Angus  Macalister,  to  resign  her  to  Cheviot- 
Hill  for  the  princely  consideration  of  two  pounds.  Aside  from 
this  one  minor  similarity,  Arms  and  the  Man  is  very  different 
from  a  Gilbert  play.  For  purposes  of  general  comparison, 
turn  once  more  to  Engaged — which  will  serve  as  well  as  any 
of  the  works  of  Gilbert — for  this  passage : 

Cheviot-Hill  (suddenly  seeing  her) :  Maggie,  come  here. 
Angus,  do  take  your  arm  from  around  that 
girl's  waist.  Stand  back,  and  don't  you 
listen.  Maggie,  three  months  ago  I  told 
you  I  loved  you  passionately;  to-day  I  tell 
you  that  I  love  you  as  passionately  as  ever ; 
I  may  add  that  I  am  still  a  rich  man.  Can 
you  oblige  me  with  a  postage-stamp? 

Here,  not  only  is  the  comic  note  struck  by  the  juxtaposition  of 
two  essential  incongruities:  in  addition,  the  farcicality  of  the 
idea  stamps  it  as  impossible.  It  is  an  admirable  illustration  of 
that  exquisite  sense  of  quaint  unexpectedness,  evoked  by  the 

*  Shaw  has  been  charged  with  indebtedness,  not  only  to  W.  S.  Gilbert, 
but  to  earlier  topsy-turvyists.  In  April,  1906,  there  appeared  in  the  New 
York  Tribune  a  "  deadly  parallel "  between  A  rms  and  the  Man  and  Used 
Up,  adapted  from  the  French  by  Charles  Mathews  in  1845.  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  the  passage  cited — Bluntschli's  proposal  for  the  hand  of  Raina 
(compared  with  Sir  Charles  Coldstream's  for  the  hand  of  Lady  Clutter- 
buck) — is  neither  an  imitation  of  Mathews,  nor  a  triumph  of  eccentric  in- 
vention, but  a  paraphrase,  Shaw  unqualifiedly  asserts,  of  an  actual  proposal 
made  by  an  Austrian  hotel  proprietor  for  the  hand  of  a  member  of  Mr. 
Shaw's  own  family. 

317, 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

plays  of  both  Gilbert  and  Shaw.  Take  now  a  scene  of  some- 
what cognate  appeal  in  Arms  and  the  Man.  In  both  scenes  the 
bid  is  for  sudden  laughter,  through  the  startle  of  surprise. 
Bluntschli  flatly  tells  Raina  to  her  face  that  he  finds  it  impossi- 
ble to  believe  a  single  thing  she  says. 

Raina  (gasping)  :  I !    I ! ! !    (She  points  to  herself  incredu- 
lously, meaning,  "  J,  Raina  Petkoff,  tell  lies!  "     He 
meets  her  gaze  unflinchingly.    She  suddenly  sits  down 
beside  him,  and  adds,  with  a  complete  change  of  man- 
ner from  the  heroic  to  the  familiar.)     How  did  you 
find  me  out? 
Bluntschli  (promptly) :  Instinct,  dear  young  lady.     In- 
stinct, and  experience  of  the  world. 
Raina  (wonderingly)  :  Do  you  know,  you  are  the  first  man 

I  ever  met  who  did  not  take  me  seriously? 
Bluntschli  :  You  mean,  don't  you,  that  I  am  the  first  man 

that  has  ever  taken  you  quite  seriously? 
Raina:  Yes,  I  suppose  I  do  mean  that.     (Cosily,  quite  at 
her  ease  with  him.)     How  strange  it  is  to  be  talked 
to  in  such  a  way !   .    .    . 

Gilbert  employs  a  device  of  the  simplest  mechanism,  giving 
merely  the  shock  of  unexpected  contrast.  Shaw's  spiritual  ad-^/ 
venture  is  an  excogitated  bit  of  psychology,  of  intellectual  con- 
tent and  rational  crescendo.  It  is  the  Shavian  trick  of  putting 
into  dialogue  the  revealing,  accusatory  words  seldom  spoken  in 
real  life. 

This  calls  to  mind  a  resemblance — with  a  difference — between 
Shaw  and  Gilbert.  In  Gilbert's  The  Palace  of  Truth  each  char- 
acter indulges  in  frank  self-revelation.  Enchanted  by  the  spell 
of  a  certain  locality,  everyone  is  compelled  to  speak  his  whole 
thought  without  disguise,  under  the  delusion  that  he  is  only 
indulging  in  the  usual  polite  insincerities.  All  this  self-analysis 
and  self -exposure  goes  for  naught  but  to  evoke  laughter;  for, 
lacking  either  profound  insight  into  human  nature  or  cynical 
distrust  of  humanity,  Gilbert  is  incapable  cf  trenchant  gen- 
eralization.   In  Shaw's  plays,  people  play  the  game  of  "  Truth  " 

318 


THE  PLAYWRIGHTV-I 

for  all  there  is  in  it ;  and  perhaps  Shaw's  greatest  capacity  is  the 
capacity  for  generalization.  Shaw's  incomparable  superiority  \r 
to  Gilbert  consists  in  his  acute  perception  and  subtle  delineation 
of  the  comic,  and  often  tragic,  inconsistencies  of  genuine  human 
character.  Shaw  has  succeeded  in  revealing  certain  subcon-1^ 
scious  sides  of  human  nature  that  usually  remain  hidden  because 
dramatists  fail  to  put  into  the  mouths  of  their  creations  the 
real  thoughts  that  clamour  for  expression.  One  almost  always 
hears  their  superficial  selves  speaking  solely  through  the  voluble 
medium  of  society  or  the  reticent  medium  of  self. 
v/  Not  only  in  philosophic  grasp,  but  also  in  imagination,  does 
Shaw  excel  Gilbert;  an  incident  will  suffice  to  explain.  Mr. 
John  Corbin  once  told  me  that  in  comparing  Shaw  and  Gilbert, 
he  had  instanced  to  Mr.  Henry  Arthur  Jones  the  play  of  Pyg- 
malion and  Galatea,  as  showing  that,  after  all,  Gilbert  had  a 
heart  and  an  imagination  for  beauty.  "  Ah,  yes !  "  replied  Mr. 
Jones.  "  But  Gilbert  never  could  have  written  that  line  in 
Casar  and  Cleopatra: 

Cesar:  What  has  Rome  to  show  me  that  I  have  not  seen 
already?  One  year  of  Rome  is  like  another,  ex- 
cept that  I  grow  older,  whilst  the  crowd  in  the 
Appian  way  is  always  the  same  age." 

Philosophically  speaking,  Gilbert's  characters  accept  without 
question  the  current  ideals  of  life  and  conduct ;  and  make  ludi- 
crous spectacles  of  themselves  in  the  effort  to  live  up  to  them. 
y  Shaw's  creations  discover  the  hollowness  and  vanity  of  these 
same  current  ideals,  and  gain  freedom  in  escape  from  their 
obsession.  As  Mr.  Walkley  once  put  it :  "  Gilbertism  consists  in 
the  ironic  humour  to  be  got  out  of  the  spectacle  of  a  number 
of  people  hypocritically  pretending,  or  naively  failing,  to  act 
up  to  ideals  which  Mr.  Gilbert  and  his  people  hold  to  be  valid. 
.  .  .  Shavianism  consists  in  the  ironic  humour  to  be  got  out  of 
the  spectacle  of  a  number  of  people  trying  to  apply  the  current 
ideas  only  to  find  in  the  end  that  they  won't  work."  *     Let  us 

*Mr.  Bernard  Shaw's  Plays,  in  Frames  of  Mind  (Grant  Richards,  Lon- 
don, 1889),  p.  47. 

319 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

have  done  with  rating  of  Shaw  as  a  cheap  imitator  of  Gilbert. 
It  is  quite  true  that  Gilbert  anticipated  Shaw  by  many  years 
in  the  use  of  the  device  of  open  confession — the  characters 
naively  "  making  a  clean  breast  "  of  things ;  but  the  device  was 
handed  on  to  Shaw  for  legitimate  use  instead  of  for  farcical 
misuse.  In  any  deep  sense,  Shaw  owes  nothing  to  Gilbert;  and 
his  paradoxes,  unlike  Gilbert's,  are  the  outcome  of  a  profound 
study  of  human  nature  and  of  contemporary  civilization.  "  Gil- 
bert would  have  anticipated  me,"  Mr.  Shaw  once  assured  me, 
"  if  he  had  taken  his  paradoxes  seriously.  But  it  does  not 
seem  to  have  occurred  to  him  that  he  had  found  any  real  flaw 
in  conventional  morality — only  that  he  had  found  out  how  to 
make  logical  quips  at  its  expense.  His  serious  plays  are  all 
conventional.  Most  of  the  revolutionary  ideas  have  come  up 
first  as  jests ;  and  Gilbert  did  not  get  deeper  than  this  stage." 
Arms  and  the  Man  is  the  first  of  four  plays  which  I  class 
v  in  a  category  by  themselves — the  plays  constructed  in  the  loose 
and  variegated  comedic  form,  presumably  designed  to  be  "  pop- 
ular "  and  to  amuse  the  public,  fantastically  treated,  and  im- 
bued with  a  mild  philosophy  held  strictly  implicit.*  These  four 
plays  are  Arms  and  the  Man,  You  Never  Can  Tell,  How  He 
Lied  to  Her  Husband  and  Captain  Brassbound's  Conversion.  In 
You  Never  Can  Tell  Shaw  deliberately  made  concessions  to  that 
coy  monster,  the  British  public.  Thitherto  he  had  in  large 
measure  disdained  the  task  of  complying  with  the  demands  of 
London  audiences  for  a  popular  comedy,  combining  his  oft- 
praised  cynical  brilliancy  and  his  talent  for  "  giving  furiously 
to  think,"  with  his  unquestioned  ability  to  amuse.  Shaw's  real- 
ization of  the  truth  of  Moliere's  words :  "  Cest  une  Strange 
entreprise  que  celle  de  faire  rire  les  honnetes  gens,"  did  not  in 
the  least  deter  him  from  embarking  upon  this  perilous  under- 
taking. In  You  Never  Can  Tell  he  gave  himself  up  wholly  to 
the  hazardous  task,  tentatively  inaugurated  in  Arms  and  the 
Man,  of  attempting  to  amuse  that  public  which  had  so  per- 
sistently refused,  so  defiantly  scorned,  his  instruction.  You 
Never  Can  Tell  was  Shaw's  propitiatory  sacrifice  to  recalcitrant 

*  By  this  method  of  treatment,  chronology  is  of  necessity  sacrificed  to 
logic. 

320 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

London.  Strange  to  say,  this  deliberate  concession  to  popular 
demand  even  his  most  lenient  censors  refused  to  validate.*  Lon- 
don, matching  Shaw  for  whimsicality,  was  no  whit  propitiated 
by  his  proposal  of  a  mariage  de  convenance  with  that  doubtful 
character,  public  opinion.  Shaw  has  taken  Shakespeare  himself 
to  task  for  pandering  to  public  taste  in  a  play  coolly  entitled 
As  You  Like  It.  When  the  "  Dramatist  of  Donnybrook  Fair," 
as  Mr.  Corbin  calls  him,  sets  out  to  write  As  You  Like  It,  what 
is  the  result?  "You  Never  Can  Tell!"  It  was  nine  years 
before  Shaw  was  able  to  change  his  tentative  and  dubious,  "  You 
Never  Can  Tell !  "  into  a  triumphant,  "  I  told  you  so ! " 

"  I  think  it  must  have  been  in  the  year  1895,"  one  reads  in 
some  reminiscences  by  Mr.  Cyril  Maude,  the  well-known  English 
actor,  "  that  the  devil  put  it  into  the  mind  of  a  friend  of  mine 
to  tempt  me  with  news  of  a  play  called  Candida,  by  a  writer 
named  Bernard  Shaw,  of  whom  until  then  I  had  never  heard."  f 
Mr.  Maude  wrote  to  Shaw,  suggesting  that  he  be  allowed  to  see 
the  play  in  question.  In  characteristic  vein,  the  author  replied 
that  the  play  would  not  suit  the  needs  of  the  Haymarket  The- 
atre, offering,  however,  to  write  a  new  play  instead;  which  Mr. 
Maude  protests  he  never  asked  Shaw  to  do,  yet  to  which  he 
interposed  no  objection.  Whereupon  Shaw  took  a  chair  in  Re- 
gent's Park  for  the  whole  season,  and  sat  there,  in  the  public 
eye,  we  are  told,  writing  the  threatened  play. 

It  was  not  until  the  winter  of  1897  that  this  play,  You  Never 
Can  Tell,  came  into  Mr.  Maude's  hands.  It  was  accepted,  and 
actually  put  into  rehearsal.  From  that  very  moment  things 
began  to  go  wrong.     Shaw  proposed  impossible  casts,  dictated  ^^ 

*  Preferring  to  see  Shaw  fail  seriously  rather  than  succeed  farcically,  Mr. 
Archer  sternly  admonished  him  to  "quit  his  foolishness";  and  Mr.  Shaw's 
former  champion  of  Independent  Theatre  days,  Mr.  J.  T.  Grein,  gently  but 
firmly  advised  him  never  again  to  send  up  any  more  such  ballons  d'essai. 

t  The  Haymarket  Theatre  (Grant  Richards,  London,  1903).  Chapter 
XIV.  (from  which  the  above  and  following  quotations  are  taken),  Mr. 
Maude  says,  "  was  sent  to  me  as  an  aid  to  the  completion  of  this  work.  It 
professes  to  deal  with  that  period  of  our  management  when  we  rehearsed 
a  piece  by  the  brilliant  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw.  The  writer,  I  am  assured,  is 
well  fitted  to  deal  with  that  period.  I  leave  it  to  the  reader  to  judge,  and 
to  guess  its  authorship."  Needless  to  say  that  the  author  was  Bernard 
Shaw  himself! 

321 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

\/to  each  actor  in  turn,  equalled  his  own  John  Tanner  in  endless 
and  torrential  talk.  Actor  after  actor,  led  by  the  genial  Jack 
Barnes,  withdrew  in  fatigue  and  disgust.  One  day  Shaw  in- 
sulted the  entire  cast  and  the  entire  profession  by  wanting  a 
large  table  on  the  stage,  on  the  ground  that  the  company  would 
fall  over  it  unless  they  behaved  as  if  they  were  coming  into 
a  real  room  instead  of,  as  he  coarsely  observed,  "  rushing  to 
the  float  to  pick  up  the  band  at  the  beginning  of  a  comic  song." 

After  a  first  reading  of  the  manuscript,  Mr.  Maude's  mis- 
givings had  been  aroused  to  such  an  extent  that  he  went  to  Shaw 
and  plainly  told  him  that  certain  lines  would  have  to  be  cut  out. 

"  Oh,  no  !  "  replied  Shaw.     "  I  really  can't  permit  that." 

"  But  in  this  shape,"  protested  the  alarmed  actor-manager, 
"  the  play  can  never  be  produced." 

"  My  dear  fellow,  you  delight  me,"  was  the  truly  Shavian 
reply. 

It  was  unbearable  to  the  cast  to  be  lectured  and  grilled  un- 
mercifully by  a  red-headed  Mephistopheles  dressed  like  a  "  fairly 
respectable  carpenter  "  in  a  suit  of  clothes  that  looked  as  though 
it  had  originally  been  made  of  brown  wrapping  paper.  The 
rehearsals  continued,  however,  with  the  entire  cast  in  a  state  of 
the  most  profound  dejection. 

"  The  end  came  suddenly  and  unexpectedly.  We  had  made  a 
special  effort  to  fulfil  our  unfortunate  contract.  .  .  .  We  were 
honestly  anxious  to  retrieve  the  situation  by  a  great  effort,  and 
save  our  dear  little  theatre  from  the  disgrace  of  a  failure. 

"  Suddenly  the  author  entered,  in  a  new  suit  of  clothes!!  " 
Nobody  who  had  seen  Shaw  sitting  there  day  after  day  in  a 
costume  which  the  least  self-respecting  plasterer  would  have  dis- 
carded months  before  could  possibly  have  understood  the  devas- 
tating effect  of  the  new  suit  upon  the  minds  of  the  spectators. 
"  That  this  was  a  calculated  coup  de  theatre  I  have  not  the 
slightest  doubt."  Shaw  played  the  part  of  benevolent  rescuer, 
and  the  play  was  withdrawn.  "  I  met  him  in  Gar  rick  Street 
not  long  ago  and  noticed  that  he  still  wore  the  suit  which  he 
had  purchased  in  1897  in  anticipation  of  the  royalties  on  You 
Never  Can  Tell!  " 

The   only   thanks   that   people   give   me  for   not  *  boring 

322 


Nfi 

J' 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

them,'  "  Shaw  once  said,  "  is  that  they  laugh  delightedly  for 
three  hours  at  the  play  that  has  cost  many  months  of  hard 
labour,  and  then  turn  round  and  say  that  it  is  no  play  at  all 
and  accuse  me  of  talking  with  my  tongue  in  my  cheek.  And 
then  they  expect  me  to  take  them  seriously  i "  No  one  can 
accuse  Shaw  of  taking  the  world  seriously  in  You  Never  Can 
Tell.  Never  was  more  playful  play,  more  irresponsible  fun.  It 
is  all  a  pure  game  of  cross-purposes,  a  contest  of  intellectual 
motives,  a  conflict  of  ideas  and  sentiments. 

This  play  is  especially  interesting  to  me  because  it  was  the 
first  of  Shaw's  plays  I  saw  produced,  and  led  me  to  a  study  of 
his  works.  And  yet  I  should  be  the  last  to  deny  that  it  is  a 
farce,  in  which  fun  as  a  motive  takes  precedence  over  delinea- 
tion of  character.  The  characters  are  no  more  faithful  to 
actuality  than  is  the  dialogue  to  ordinary  conversation.  Indeed, 
the  play  is  almost  a  new  genre,  differing  from  the  ordinary 
farce,  in  which  action  predominates  over  thought,  in  the  respect 
that  here  thought,  or  rather  vivacious  mentalization,  takes  pre- 
cedence over  everything — the  antics  are  psychical,  not  physical. 
Shaw  maintains,  not  that  the  play  is  a  comedy,  but  that  it  is 
cast  in  the  ordinary  practical  comedy  form.  I  take  this  to 
mean  that  Shaw  has  utilized  the  stock  characters  and  devices  of 
ordinary  comedy — not  to  mention  those  of  farce,  burlesque  and 
extravaganza! — purely  for  his  own  ends,  giving  them  a  fresh 
and  unique  interest  by  animating  them  with  the  infectious  mirth 
of  his  own  personality.  At  last  Shaw  has  found  that  loosed 
variegated,  kaleidoscopic  comedic  form  which  freely  admits  of 
the  intrusive  antics  of  the  Shavian  whimsicality. 

There  is  not  a  single  play  of  Shaw's  that  starts  nowhere  and-^ 
never  arrives;  and  here  the  fault  is  not  that  the  play  has  no 
meaning,  but  that  it  has  too  many  meanings.  And  it  is  per- 
haps just  as  well  that  there  is  no  clear  line  of  thought-filiation 
running  through  the  play.  It  is  quite  possible,  as  Hervieu 
would  say,  to  "  disengage  "  one,  or  even  several  motives,  inter- 
linked with  one  another,  from  the  play.  Shaw,  however,  seems 
content  to  put  everyone  on  the  defensive,  to  search  out  the 
weak  points  in  their  armour,  and  to  give  to  each  in  turn  the 
coup  de  grace. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

*  The  play  is  notable  in  two  respects — for  its  treatment  of  the 
emotions  and  for  the  figure  of  William.  Valentine  is  the  im- 
perfect prototype  of  John  Tanner.  His  sole  equipment  is  his 
tongue;  instead  of  a  conscience  and  a  heart,  he  has  only  a 
brain.  George  Ade  would  have  called  him  "  Gabby  Val,  the  con- 
versational dentist."  Gloria  succumbs  to  the  scientific  wooing 
of  the  new  "  duellist  of  sex  " ;  her  armour  of  frigid  reserve,  the 
heritage  of  twentieth-century  precepts,  melts  before  the  cal- 
culated warmth  of  Valentine's  advances.  After  allowing  her  to 
belong  to  herself  for  years,  Nature  now  seizes  her  and  uses  her 
for  Nature's  own  large  purposes.  And  Valentine,  but  now  the 
triumphant  victor  in  the  duel  of  sex,  realizes  when  it  is  too  late 
that,  after  all,  he  is  only  the  victimized  captive.  All  comedies 
end  with  a  wedding,  because  it  is  then  that  the  tragedy  begins ! 
The  real  distinction  of  the  play  consists  in  Shaw's  portrayal  of 
his  conception  of  love  as  it  exhibits  itself  in  the  contemporary 
human  being.  As  Mr.  Walkley  has  put  it,  love,  in  Shaw's  view, 
is  not,  as  with  Chamfort,  the  echange  de  deux  fantaisies,  but 
the  echange  de  deux  explications.  With  Shaw,  the  symbol  of 
love  is  not  a  Cupid  blindfold,  but  the  alertest  of  Arguses.  His 
intellectual  reflection  of  the  erotic  illusion  exhibits  neither 
tender  sentiment,  emotive  abandon,  nor  sexual  passion.  Shaw's 
lovers,  as  Mr.  Desmond  MacCarthy  has  pertinently  put  it, 
"  instead  of  using  the  language  of  admiration  and  affection,  in 
which  this  sexual  passion  is  so  often  cloaked,  simply  convey  by 
their  words  the  kind  of  mental  tumult  they  are  in.  Sexual  in- 
fatuation is  stripped  bare  of  all  the  accessories  of  poetry  and 
sympathy.  It  is  represented  as  it  is  by  itself,  with  its  own 
peculiar  romance,  but  with  none  of  the  feelings  which  may,  and 
often  do,  accompany  it."  * 

The  one  really  admirable  figure  in  the  play  is  the  immortal 
William.  A  master  figure  of  classic,  rather  than  modern,  com- 
edy, he  suggests,  with  exquisite  subtlety,  the  graceful  unob- 
trusiveness  that  dignifies  his  calling.  Whenever  he  loses  sight 
of  his  menial  position  long  enough  to  utter  one  of  his  kindly 
bits  of  philosophy,  it  is   always   to  fade  back  again  into  the 

*  The  Court  Theatre,  1904-1907,  by  Desmond  MacCarthy  (A.  H.  Bullen, 
London,  1907),  p.  57. 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

waiter  attitude  with  such  deference  and  such  celerity  as  to  ac- 
centuate the  pathos  of  the  contrast  between  his  station  and  the 
rare  humanity  of  his  genial  philosophy. 

You  Never  Can  Tell,  which  Mr.  Archer  found  to  be  a  "  form- 
less and  empty  farce,"  achieved  immense  popular  success  in 
New  York  and  London,  has  been  produced  with  gratifying 
results  throughout  German  Europe,  as  well  as  all  over  Great 
Britain,  and  justifies  Mr.  Norman  Hapgood's  characterization: 
"  The  best  farce  that  has  been  upon  the  English-speaking  stage 
in  many  years." 

Before  turning  to  the  last  of  the  fantastic  farce-comedies,  I 
would  mention  very  briefly  the  three  little  topical  pieces  which 
exhibit  the  joker  Shaw  at  his  Shawest.  First,  there  is  that 
petite  comedie  rosse,  so  slight  as  to  be  dubbed  by  Shaw  himself 
a  "  comediettina,"  How  He  Lied  to  Her  Husband — written  in 
1905  to  eke  out  Mr.  Arnold  Daly's  bill  in  New  York.  "  I  began 
by  asking  Mr.  Shaw  to  write  me  a  play  about  Cromwell,"  re- 
lates Mr.  Daly.  "  The  idea  appealed  to  him  in  his  own  way. 
He  said  he  thought  it  good,  but  then  he  raced  on  to  suggest 
that  we  might  have  Charles  the  First  come  on  with  his  head 
under  his  arm,  I  pointed  out  to  Shaw  that  it  would  be  highly 
inconvenient  for  a  man  to  come  on  the  stage  with  his  head 
under  his  arm,  even  if  he  were  an  acrobat.  Shaw,  however, 
said  he  thought  it  could  be  done.  In  the  end,  he  said  he  would 
compromise.  '  Write  the  first  thirty-five  minutes  of  that  play 
yourself,'  said  he,  '  and  let  me  write  the  last  five  minutes.'  "  * 
What  a  convenient  recipe  for  Shaw's  formula  of  anti-climax! 
The  point  of  the  little  topsy-turvy,  knockabout  farce  is  the  re- 
ductio  ad  absurdum  of  the  "  Candidamaniacs  " ;  but  the  penny- 
a-liners  usually  paragraphed  it  as  a  travesty  on  Shaw's  own 
play  of  Candida.  Shaw  finally  cabled :  "  Need  I  say  that  anyone 
who  imagines  that  How  He  Lied  to  Her  Husband  retracts  Can- 
dida, or  satirizes  it,  or  travesties  it,  or  belittles  it  in  any  way, 
understands  neither  the  one  nor  the  other?  "  This  comediettina 
is  a  bright  little  skit,  but  it  is  no  more  amusing  than  it  is  untrue 
to  the  intellectuels  who  made  Candida  a  success  in  New  York 

*  Post-Express   (Rochester,  N.  Y.),  December  3d,  1904. 

325 


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THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

and  laid  the  foundations  of  Shaw's — and  Daly's — success  in 
America. 

On  July  14th,  1905,  in  a  booth  in  Regent's  Park,  London, 
for  the  benefit  of  the  Actors'  Orphanage,  was  "  performed  re-.v' 
peatedly,  with  colossal  success,"  a  "  tragedy,"  entitled  Passion, 
Poison  and  Petrifaction;  or  The  Fatal  Gazogene,  written  by 
Shaw  at  the  request  of  Mr.  Cyril  Maude.  It  is  an  extravagant 
burlesque  on  popular  melodrama,  and  the  main  incident  of  the 
"  tragedy  "  is  the  petrifaction  of  the  hero  caused  by  swallowing 
a  lot  of  lime  as  an  antidote  to  the  poison  administered  to  him 
by  the  jealous  husband  of  his  inamorata,  Lady  Magnesia  Fitz- 
tollemache.  "  The  play  has  a  funny  little  history,"  Mr.  Shaw 
told  me,  "  having  its  origin  in  a  story  I  once  made  up  for  one 
of  the  Archer  children.  In  the  early  days  of  William  Archer's 
married  life  I  was  down  there  one  night,  and  one  of  the  chil- 
dren asked  me  to  tell  him  a  story.  '  What  about  ?  '  I  asked. 
*  A  story  about  a  cat,'  was  the  eager  reply.  It  seems  that  at 
one  time  my  aunt  was  interested  in  making  little  plaster-of-paris 
figures;  and  one  day  the  cat  came  along,  and,  thinking  it  was 
milk,  lapped  up  some  of  the  moist  plaster-of-paris.  And  so 
the  sad  result,  as  I  told  the  Archer  children,  was  that  the  poor 
cat  petrified  inside.  '  And  what  did  they  do  with  the  cat  ?  '  one 
of  the  children  asked.  '  Well,  you  see,'  I  replied,  {  one  of  the 
doors  of  the  house  would  never  stay  shut,  so  my  mother  kept  the 
cat  there  ever  afterwards  to  hold  the  door  shut.'  The  funny 
part  of  it  all  was  that  Mrs.  Archer  said  that  she  had  caught  me 
in  a  lie — and  to  her  own  children  at  that.  To  this  day  she  never 
believes  a  single  thing  I  say ! " 

"  Passion,  Poison  and  Petrifaction  is,  of  course,  the  most  utter 
nonsense,"  Shaw  continued.  "  But,  would  you  believe  it," — 
with  a  chuckle — "  it  was  recently  successfully  produced  in 
Vienna,  and  seriously  praised  as  a  characteristic  play  of  the 
brilliant  Irish  dramatist  and  Socialist,  Bernard  Shaw !  "  * 

Slightest  of  all  three  is  The  Interlude  at  The  Playhouse, 

*  Passion,  Poison,  and  Petrifaction;  or  the  Fatal  Gazogene;  originally 
appeared  in  Harry  Furniss's  Christmas  Annual  for  1905  (Arthur  Treherne 
and  Co.  Ltd.,  Adelphi,  London),  pp.  11-24,  with  illustrations  by  Mr.  Harry 
Furniss. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

written  for  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Cyril  Maude,  and  delivered  by  them  at 
the  opening  of  The  Playhouse,  Mr.  Maude's  new  theatre,  on 
Monday,  January  28th,  1907.*  The  little  piece  extracts  all  the 
comedy  to  be  got  out  of  the  embarrassment  of  an  actor-manager 
over  having  to  deliver  a  certain  speech,  and  the  solicitude  of  his 
wife  in  making  an  appeal  to  the  audience  on  his  behalf,  but 
without  his  knowledge,  for  sympathy  and  encouragement.  The 
genuine  delicacy  and  lightness  of  touch  with  which  the  situation 
is  handled,  and  the  absence  of  Shavian  intrusiveness,  unite  in 
making  of  the  interlude  a  little  gem,  quite  perfect  of  its 
kind. 

The  last  ©f  the  comedies  of  character  is  Captain  Brassbound's 
Conversion,  classified  by  Shaw  as  one  of  the  Three  Plays  for 
Puritans,  This  play  might  never  have  been  written,  but  for 
the  fact  that  Ellen  Terry  made  no  secret  of  the  fact  that  she  S' 
was  born  in  1848.  When  her  son,  Gordon  Craig,  became  a 
father,  Ellen  Terry,  according  to  Shaw,  said  that  now  no  one 
would  ever  write  plays  for  a  grandmother!  Shaw  immediately 
wrote  Captain  Brassbound's  Conversion  to  prove  the  contrary. 
And  seven  years  later  Ellen  Terry  portrayed  Lady  Cicely 
Waynflete  with  a  charm,  a  waywardness,  and  a  grace  that  gave 
pleasure  to  thousands  in  England  and  America. 

Just  as,  in  The  Devil's  Disciple,  Shaw  reduces  the  melo- 
dramatic form  to  absurdity,  so  in  Captain  Brassbound's  Con- 
version does  he  reduce  to  absurdity  the  melodramatic  view  of 
life.  The  scene  of  the  play  is  an  imaginary  Morocco,  a  second- 
hand, fantastic  image  vicariously  caught  for  Shaw  by  Mr. 
Cunninghame  Graham.  Not  only  did  Shaw  want  to  write  a 
good  part  for  Ellen  Terry:  he  also  wanted  to  write  a  good 
play.  So  he  wrote  a  whimsical  fantasy,  half  melodrama,  half 
extravaganza,  conditioned  only  by  his  own  mildly  philosophic 
bent  and  the  need  for  developing  Lady  Cicely's  character.  The 
result,  as  he  is  fond  of  saying,  is  simply  a  story  of  conversion 
— a  Christian  tract! 

The  protagonist,  the  pirate  Brassbound,  orders  his  life  upon 

*  The  text  of  this  dainty  little  interlude  is  to  be  found  in  the  Daily  Mail, 
January  29th,  1907.  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Maude  were  playing  in  Toddles  at  the 
time. 

328 


S 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

the  principle  that,  as  Bacon  puts  it,  "  revenge  is  a  sort  of  wild 
justice."  He  is  imbued  with  mediaeval  concepts  of  right  and 
wrong.  In  opposition  to  him,  he  discovers  his  opposite— a  cool, 
tactful,  unsentimental  woman  of  the  world,  disarming  all  op- 
position through  her  Tolstoyism.  With  sympathetic  interest, 
she  soon  wins  from  Brassbound  the  secret  of  his  life,  and  with 
quiet  and  delicious  satire,  opens  his  eyes  to  the  pettiness  of  his 
mock-heroics,  the  absurdity  of  the  melodramatic  view-point — the 
code  of  the  Kentucky  feud,  the  Italian  vendetta.  The  revulsion 
in  Brassbound  is  instant  and  complete:  he  is  wholly  disarmed 
by  the  discovery  that,  instead  of  being  the  chosen  instrument 
for  the  wild  justice  of  lynch-law,  he  is  only  a  ridiculous  two- 
pence coloured  villain. 

"  My  uncle  was  no  worse  than  myself — better,  most  likely," 
is  his  final  confession  to  Lady  Cicely.  "  Well,  I  took  him  for 
a  villain  out  of  a  story-book.  My  mother  would  have  opened 
anybody  else's  eyes:  she  shut  mine.  I'm  a  stupider  man  than 
Brandyfaced  Jack  even;  for  he  got  his  romantic  nonsense  out 
of  his  penny  numbers  and  such-like  trash;  but  I  got  just  the 
same  nonsense  out  of  life  and  experience." 

Lady  Cicely  Waynflete  is  the  most  charming  woman  that 
Shaw  has  ever  drawn.  Shaw  has  intimated  that  he  found  in 
the  friendship  of  Ellen  Terry,  who  served  as  the  model  for  Lady 
Cicely,  the  "  best  return  which  could  be  expected  from  a  gifted, 
brilliant  and  beautiful  woman,  whose  love  had  already  been  given 
elsewhere,  and  whose  heart  had  witnessed  thousands  of  tempta- 
tions." *  In  speaking  of  the  character  of  Lady  Cicely  Wayn- 
flete, Miss  Florence  Farr  once  said :  "  As  a  sex,  women  must  be 

*  The  figure  of  Lady  Cicely  Waynflete  possesses  an  unique  interest  in  view 
of  the  fact  conveyed  in  the  following  record  of  Ellen  Terry's :  "  At  this 
time  (1897),  Mr.  Shaw  and  I  frequently  corresponded.  It  began  by  my 
writing  to  ask  him,  as  musical  critic  of  the  Saturday  Review  (!),  to  tell 
me  frankly  what  he  thought  of  the  chances  of  a  composer-singer  friend 
of  mine.  He  answered  '  characteristically,'  and  we  developed  a  perfect 
fury  for  writing  to  each  other.  Sometimes  the  letters  were  on  business, 
sometimes  they  were  not,  but  always  his  were  entertaining,  and  mine  were, 
I  suppose,  *  good  copy,'  as  he  drew  the  character  of  Lady  Cicely  Waynflete 
in  Brassbound  entirely  from  my  letters.  He  never  met  me  until  after  the 
play  was  written."  From  Lewis  Carroll  to  Bernard  Shaw,  in  McClure's 
Magazine,  September,  1908. 

329 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

for  ever  grateful  to  Miss  Ellen  Terry  for  teaching  Mr.  Shaw 
that  lesson  about  woman."  Nothing  could  be  simpler  or  more 
effective  than  the  secret  of  command  possessed  by  this  charm- 
ing woman.  She  knows  that  to  go  straight  up  to  people,  with 
hand  outstretched  and  a  frank  "  How  d'ye  do  ?  "  is  all  that  i§ 
needed  to  win  their  confidence.  The  dastardly  sheikh,  into 
whose  hands  she  is  about  to  be  delivered,  is  stupefied  and  "  almost 
persuaded,"  when  she  assures  her  friends  that  he  will  treat  her 
like  one  of  Nature's  gentlemen :  "  Look  at  his  perfectly  splendid 
face !  "  Combining  as  she  does  the  temperament  of  Ellen  Terry 
with  the  genial  esprit  of  Bernard  Shaw,  Lady  Cicely  is  a  thor- 
oughly delightful  and  unique  type  of  the  eternal  feminine.  She 
is  just  at  the  "  age  of  charm,"  her  actions  are  unhampered  by 
sentiment,  and  her  chief  attractions  are  frank  naivete,  the  trait 
of  attributing  the  best  of  qualities  to  other  people,  and  an 
innocent  assumption  of  authority  that  quietly  pinions  all  oppo- 
sition. She  always  manages  to  do  just  what  she  likes  because 
she  is  bound  by  no  ties  to  her  fellow-creatures,  save  the  bonds 
of  sympathy  and  innate  human  kindness.  In  one  respect  is 
she  a  true  Shavienne:  toward  law,  convention,  propriety, 
prejudice,  she  takes  an  attitude  of  quaintly  humorous  scepti- 
cism. What  a  delicious  touch  is  that  when  Sir  Howard  protests 
that  she  has  made  him  her  accomplice  in  defeating  justice! 
"  Yes,"  is  her  delightfully  feminine  reply :  "  aren't  you  glad 
it's  been  defeated  for  once  ?  " 

\s  The  moral  of  this  charming  but  very  slight  and  superficially 
fantastic  play  is  that  revenge  is  not  wild  justice,  but  childish 
melodrama,  and  that  the  justice  of  the  courts  of  law,  enforced 
by  melodramatic  sentences  of  punishment,  is  often  little  else 
than  a  very  base  sort  of  organized  revenge.  The  fable  is  rather 
trivial;  and  the  long  arm  of  coincidence  puts  its  finger  into 
the  pie  more  than  once,  playing  that  part  of  timely  interven- 
tion at  which  Shaw  is  so  fond  of  railing.  The  mixture  of 
Shavian  satire  with  Tolstoyan  principles  is  both  novel  and 
piquant ;  and  the  mildly  Ibsenic  ending  is  a  good  "  curtain  " — 
Brassbound  discovering  at  last  the  secret  of  command,  i.e., 
selflessness  and  disinterested  sympathy,  and  Lady   Cicely  ec- 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— I 

statically  felicitating  herself  upon  her  escape  from — the  bonds 
of  love  and  matrimony. 

One  other  feature  of  the  play  is  the  hideous  language  of 
the  cockney,  Felix  Drinkwater,  alias  Brandyfaced  Jack.  It 
takes  quite  an  effort,  even  with  the  aid  of  the  key  which  Shaw 
has  considerately  appended,  to  decipher  the  jargon  of  this  un- 
happy hooligan,  "  a  nime  giv'  us  pore  thortless  lads  baw  a  gint 
on  the  Dily  Chronicle."  In  Drinkwater,  Shaw  sought  to  fix 
on  paper  the  dialect  of  the  London  cockney,  and  he  once  told 
me  that  he  regarded  this  as  the  only  accurate  effort  of  the 
kind  in  modern  fiction.  Interested  in  the  study  of  phonetics 
through  his  acquaintance  and  friendship  with  that  "  revolu- 
tionary don  "  and  academic  authority,  Henry  Sweet  of  Oxford, 
Shaw  put  his  knowledge  to  work  to  represent  phonetically  the 
lingo  of  the  Board-School-educated  cockney.  "  All  that  the 
conventional  spelling  has  done,"  Shaw  once  said  in  one  of  his 
numerous  journalistic  controversies,  "  is  to  conceal  the  one 
change  that  a  phonetic  spelling  might  have  checked;  namely, 
the  changes  in  pronunciation,  including  the  waves  of  debase- 
ment that  produced  the  half -rural  cockney  of  Sam  Weller,  and 
the  modern  metropolitan  cockney  of  Drinkwater  in  Captain 
Brassbound's  Conversion.  .  .  .  Refuse  to  teach  the  Board 
School  legions  your  pronunciation,  and  they  will  force  theirs 
on  you  by  mere  force  of  numbers.    And  serve  you  right !  " 


331 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

"  I  have,  I  think,  always  been  a  Puritan  in  my  attitude  towards  Art.  I 
am  as  fond  of  fine  music  and  handsome  buildings  as  Milton  was,  or  Crom- 
well, or  Bunyan;  but  if  I  found  that  they  were  becoming  the  instruments 
of  a  systematic  idolatry  of  sensuousness,  I  would  hold  it  good  statesman- 
ship to  blow  every  cathedral  in  the  world  to  pieces  with  dynamite,  organ 
and  all,  without  the  least  heed  to  the  screams  of  the  art  critics  and  cultured 
voluptuaries." — Why  for  Puritans?  Preface  to  Three  Plays  for  Puritans, 
p.  xix. 

"  I  do  not  satirize  types.  I  draw  individuals  as  they  are.  When  I 
describe  a  tub,  Archer  and  Walkley  say  it  is  a  satire  on  a  tub." — Con- 
versation with  the  author. 


CHAPTER  XI 

CAESAR  AND  CLEOPATRA,  unique  in  Bernard  Shaw's 
theatre,  alike  in  subject  matter  and  genre,  warrants  indi- 
vidual consideration.  To  an  interviewer,  on  April  30th,  1898, 
Shaw  related  that  he  was  just  in  the  middle  of  the  first  act  of  a 
new  play,  in  which  he  was  going  "  to  give  Shakespeare  a  lead." 
Unlike  Oscar  Wilde,  who  once  said  that  the  writing  of  plays 
for  a  particular  actor  or  actress  was  work  for  the  artisan  in 
literature,  not  for  the  artist,  Shaw  freely  confessed  that  he 
wrote  Caesar  and  Cleopatra  for  Forbes  Robertson,  "  because  he 
is  the  classic  actor  of  our  day,  and  had  a  right  to  require  such 
a  service  from  me."  *  Asked  if  he  had  not  been  reading  up 
"  Mommsen  and  people  like  that,"  Shaw  replied,  "  Not  a  bit 
of  it.  History  is  only  a  dramatization  of  events.  And  if  I 
start  telling  lies  about  Caesar,  it's  a  hundred  to  one  that  they  will 
be  just  the  same  lies  that  other  people  have  told  about  him. 
.  .  .  Given  Caesar  and  a  certain  set  of  circumstances,  I  know 
what  would  happen,  and  when  I  have  finished  the  play  you  will 
find  I  have  written  history."  f 

In  an  opening  scene  of  rare  beauty  and  mystery,  Caesar  dis- 
covers the  child-truant  Cleopatra  reclining  between  the  paws  of 
her  "  baby-sphinx."  What  possibilities,  what  previsions  are 
packed  in  this  prophetic  hour,  which  witnesses  the  meeting  of 
these  two  supreme  representatives  of  two  alien  worlds,  two 
diverse  civilizations !  From  the  sublime  we  are  hurled  down  to 
the   ridiculous.      Caesar,    dreamer    and   world-conquerer,    apos- 

*  Bernard  Shaw  and  the  Heroic  Actor,  in  The  Play,  No.  62,  Vol.  X.  In 
this  same  article  Shaw  says:  "No  man  writes  a  play  without  any  reference 
to  the  possibility  of  a  performance:  you  may  scorn  the  limitations  of  the 
theatre  as  much  as  you  please;  but  for  all  that  you  do  not  write  parts  for 
six-legged  actors  or  two-headed  heroines,  though  there  is  great  scope  for 
drama  in  such  conceptions." 

•fMr.  Shaw's  Future:  A  Conversation,  in  the  Academy,  April  30th,  1898. 
This  interview  is  signed  "C.  R."— presumably  Clarence  Rook. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

trophizing  the  sphinx  in  the  immemorial  moonlight  of  Egypt, 
is  suddenly  f eazed  out  of  countenance  by  a  childish  voice :  "  Old 
gentleman! — don't  run  away,  old  gentleman."  It  is  the  voice 
of  Shaw  to  his  public :  "  I  may  take  unpardonable  liberties 
with  you;  but — don't  run  away." 

In  the  main,  Shaw  follows,  as  far  as  time,  place  and  historical 
events  go,  such  facts  of  history  as  are  to  be  found  in  Plutarch 
and  in  Be  Bello  Gallico;  in  every  other  respect  the  play  is 
modern,  colloquially  modern,  in  tone  and  in  spirit.  Shaw  ap- 
proaches his  theme  under  the  domination  of  an  idee  fiwe:  scorn 
of  tradition  and  of  the  science  of  history.  The  notion  that  there 
has  been  any  progress  since  the  time  of  Caesar  is  absurd!  In- 
creased command  over  Nature  by  no  means  connotes  increased 
command  over  self;  if  there  has  been  any  evolution,  it  has  been 
in  our  conceptions  of  the  meaning  of  greatness.  When  Shaw 
wrote  his  celebrated  preface  Better  than  Shakespeare?  he  had 
a  very  definite  claim  to  make;  that  his  Caesar  and  Cleopatra 
are  more  credible,  more  natural,  to  a  modern  audience,  than  are 
the  imaginative  projections  of  a  Shakespeare.  Shaw  maintains 
that,  in  manner  and  art,  nobody  can  write  better  than  Shake- 
speare, "  because,  carelessness  apart,  he  did  the  thing  as  well 
as  it  can  be  done  within  the  limits  of  human  faculty."  But 
Shaw  did  profess  to  have  something  to  say  by  this  time  that 
Shakespeare  neither  said  nor  dreamed  of.  "  Allow  me  to  set 
forth  Caesar  in  the  same  modern  light,"  pleads  Shaw,  in  speak- 
ing of  the  hero-restorations  of  Carlyle  and  Mommsen,  "  taking 
the  same  liberty  with  Shakespeare  as  he  with  Homer,  and  with  no 
thought  of  pretending  to  express  the  Mommsenite  view  of 
Caesar  any  better  than  Shakespeare  expressed  a  view  that  was 
not  even  Plutarchian.  .  .  . "  *  "  Shakespeare's  Caesar  is  the 
reductio  ad  absurdum  of  the  real  Julius  Caesar,"  Mr.  Shaw  once 
remarked  to  me ;  "  my  Caesar  is  a  simple  return  to  nature  and 
history." 

Are  there  many  cases  in  dramatic  psychology,  asked  M.  Filon, 
as  interesting  as  the  liaison  which  would  have  had  "  Caesarion  " 
as  result?     But  in  Casar  and  Cleopatra,  there  is  no  battle  of 

*  Better  than  Shakespeare?    Preface  to  Three  Plays  for  Puritans. 

336 


►  Eduard  J.  Steiclun.] 


IN     CONSULTATION, 


From  the  original  monochrome,   made  at    10,   Adelphi   Terrace,    London,    W.C. 
August,    1907.       .  1 


[Facing  p.  332 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

love,  no  dramatic  conflict.  Shaw  might  have  produced  a  drama 
of  the  nations,  in  which  the  cunning  intrigues  of  Egypt  are 
matched  against  the  forthrightness  and  efficiency  of  the  Ro- 
mans; or  a  drama  of  passion,  charged  to  the  full  with  poetic 
imagination.  But  he  has  availed  himself  neither  of  the  his- 
toric sense,  in  which  he  appears  to  be  deficient,  nor  of  the  ro- 
mantic violence  of  poetic  imagination,  against  which  he  rages 
with  puritanical  fervour.  Shaw  calls  the  play  a  "  history  " ; 
certainly  it  is  not  a  "  drama  "  in  the  technical  sense.*  And  yet, 
despite  the  numerous  longueurs  of  the  play,  the  pyrotechnic 
flashes  of  wit  which  only  barely  suffice  to  conceal  the  fact  that 
the  action  is  marking  time,  the  exciting  incidents  which  sep- 
arately give  a  semblance  of  activity  to  the  piece,  there  is  a 
genuine  thread  of  motive  connecting  scene  with  scene. 

CcBsar  and  Cleopatra  is,  from  one  point  of  view,  a  study  in 
the  evolution  of  character;  and  this  play,  and  Major  Barbara, 
are  the  only  exceptions  to  Shaw's  theatre  of  static  character. 
The  psychological  action  of  the  piece  consists  in  the  evolution, 
under  the  guiding  hand  of  Caesar,  of  the  little  Egyptian  sensu- 
alist, in  the  period  of  plastic  adolescence.  Caesar  has  the  weak 
fondness  of  an  indulgent  uncle  for  the  adolescent  Cleopatra, 
with  her  strange  admixture  of  childish  mauvaise  honte  and  regal 
covetousness.  Realizing  with  the  instinct  of  a  king-maker 
Cleopatra's  dangerous  possibilities  as  a  ruler,  Caesar  exercises 
upon  her  the  plastic  and  determinative  force  of  an  architect 
of  states.  Slowly  the  little  Cleopatra  learns  her  lesson,  glories 
in  her  newly-won  power,  tyrannizes  inhumanly  over  all  about 
her,  and  eventually — with  well-nigh  disastrous  effects  to  her- 
self— endeavours  to  teach  her  teacher  the  true  secret  of 
dominion. 

From  another  point  of  view,  this  play  is  the  portrait  of  a 
hero  in  the  light  of  Shavian  psychology — a  hero  in  undress 


*  In  Berlin  the  play  was  given  in  its  entirety  at  the  Neues  Theater ; 
in  London,  at  the  Savoy  Theatre,  it  proved  quite  feasible  to  give  the  play 
omitting  the  entire  third  act.  And  yet  the  third  act,  according  to  M.  Jean 
Blum  (Revue  Germanique,  November-December,  1906),  contains  the  dra- 
matic climax!  Compare  also,  Dramatische  Rundschau,  by  Friedrich  Dusel, 
Weaterinarm's  Monatshefte,  June,  1906. 

337 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

costume,  in  his  dressing-gown  as  he  lived,  with  all  his  trivial 
vanities  and  endearing  weaknesses.  The  halo  of  the  "  pathos 
of  distance,"  surrounding  the  head  of  the  demi-god,  wholly 
fades  away;  and  there  stands  before  us  a  real  man,  shorn  of 
the  romantic,  the  histrionic,  the  chivalric,  it  is  true,  but  a  real 
man,  every  inch  of  him,  for  all  that.  Shaw  clearly  draws  the 
distinction : 

"  Our  conception  of  heroism  has  changed  of  late  years. 
The  stage  hero  of  the  palmy  days  is  a  pricked  bubble. 
The  gentlemanly  hero,  of  whom  Tennyson's  King  Arthur 
was  the  type,  suddenly  found  himself  out  as  Torvald 
Helmer  in  Ibsen's  DolVs  House,  and  died  of  the  shock.  It 
is  no  use  now  going  on  with  heroes  who  are  no  longer 
really  heroic  to  us.  Besides,  we  want  credible  heroes.  The 
old  demand  for  the  incredible,  the  impossible,  the  super- 
human, which  was  supplied  by  bombast,  inflation,  and  the 
piling  of  crimes  on  catastrophes  and  factitious  raptures 
on  artificial  agonies,  has  fallen  off;  and  the  demand  now 
is  for  heroes  in  whom  we  can  recognize  our  own  humanity, 
and  who,  instead  of  walking,  talking,  eating,  drinking, 
making  love  and  fighting  single  combats  in  a  monotonous 
ecstasy  of  continuous  heroism,  are  heroic  in  the  true  human 
fashion:  that  is,  touching  the  summits  only  at  rare  mo- 
ments, and  finding  the  proper  level  of  all  occasions,  con- 
descending with  humour  and  good  sense  to  the  prosaic 
ones  as  well  as  rising  to  the  noble  ones,  instead  of  ridicu- 
lously persisting  in  rising  to  them  all  on  the  principle  that 
a  hero  must  always  soar,  in  season  or  out  of  season."  * 

Mr.  Forbes  Robertson  recently  said  that  he  regarded  Caesar 
and  Cleopatra  as  a  "  great  play,"  representing  very  truly  what 
one  would  imagine  Caesar  said,  thought  and  felt.  "  Possibly 
the  play  is  before  its  time — some  people  have  said  such  curious 
things  about  it.  There  are  scenes  of  wonderful  brilliancy  and 
beautjr,  and  I  myself  see  nothing  farcical  about  the  play,  as 

*  Bernard  Shaw  and  the  Heroic  Actor,  in  The  Play,  No.  62,  Vol.  X. 

338 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

some  people  seem  to  suggest.  I  see  a  great  wit  and  humour; 
and,  as  Mr.  Shaw  points  out,  by  what  right  are  we  to  pre- 
suppose that  Caesar  had  no  sense  of  humour?  He  meets  this 
amusing  little  impudent  girl,  and  is  very  much  amused  with 
her,  and  interested  in  her,  quite  naturally  as  a  human  being. 
Why  should  one  expect  him  to  go  strutting  about,  with  one 
arm  in  his  toga  and  the  other  extended,  spouting  dull  blank 
verse?  "  Indeed,  Shaw's  Caesar  is  a  remarkable  personality — in 
practice  a  man  of  business  sagacity;  in  politics,  a  dreamer;  in 
action,  brilliant  and  resourceful;  in  private,  a  trifle  vain  and 
rhetorical — boyish,  exuberant,  humorous.  When  Pothinus  ex- 
presses amazement  that  the  conqueror  of  the  world  has  time  to 
busy  himself  with  taxes,  Caesar  affably  replies :  "  My  friend, 
taxes  are  the  chief  business  of  a  conqueror  of  the  world." 

Like  Mirabeau,  he  had  no  memory  for  insults  and  affronts 
received,  and  "  could  not  forgive,  for  the  sole  reason  that — 
he  forgot."  He  answers  to  Nietzsche's  differentia:  "  Not  to  be 
able  to  take  seriously  for  a  long  time,  an  enemy,  or  a  mis- 
fortune, or  even  one's  own  misdeeds — is  the  characteristic  of 
strong  and  full  natures,  abundantly  endowed  with  plastic, 
formative,  restorative,  also  obliterative  force."  Caesar's  policy 
of  clemency  is  constantly  thwarted  by  the  murderous  passions 
of  his  soldiers ;  the  murder  of  Pompey  he  contemns  as  a  stroke 
of  unpardonable  treachery  and  revenge,  the  removal  of  Ver- 
cingetorix  very  much  as  Talleyrand  regarded  the  execution  of 
the  Due  d'Enghien :  it  was  worse  than  a  crime,  it  was  a  blunder. 
Sufficient  unto  himself,  strong  enough  to  dispense  with  happi- 
ness, Caesar  is — to  use  a  phrase  of  Mr.  Desmond  MacCarthy's — 
"  content  in  the  place  of  happiness  with  a  kind  of  triumphant 
gaiety,  springing  from  a  sense  of  his  own  fortitude  and  power." 
Caesar  is  a  thoroughly  good  fellow,  prosaically,  patho-comically 
looking  approaching  old  age  in  the  face  and  wearing  his  con- 
queror's wreath  of  oak  leaves — to  conceal  his  growing  bald 
spot.  Were  Rome  a  true  republic,  Caesar  would  be  the  first 
of  republicans;  he  values  the  life  of  every  Roman  in  his  army 
as  he  values  his  own,  and  makes  friends  with  everyone  as  he 
does  with  dogs  and  children.  "  Caesar  is  an  important  public 
man,"  as  Mr.  Max  Beerbohm  puts  it,  "  who  knows  that  a  little 

339 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

chit  of  a  girl-queen  has  taken  a  fancy  to  him,  and  is  tickled  by 
the  knowledge  and  behaves  very  kindly  to  her,  and  rather  wishes 
he  were  young  enough  to  love  her."  But  when  he  is  again 
recalled  to  Rome,  Cleopatra  concerns  him  no  more.  Caesar  is 
the  Shavian  type  of  the  naturally  great  man — great,  not  be- 
cause he  mortifies  his  nature  in  fulfilment  of  duty,  but  because 
he  fulfils  his  own  will."  * 

Casar  and  Cleopatra,  to  employ  a  phrase  of  the  elder  Co- 
quelin,  is  a  "  combination  of  the  most  absolute  fantasy  with  the 
most  absolute  truth."  One  feels  at  times  that  it  belongs  in  the 
category  of  Orphee  aux  Enfers  and  La  Belle  Helene,  and  only 
needs  the  music  of  Offenbach  to  round  it  out.  Shaw  shatters  the 
illusion  of  antiquity  with  a  multitude  of  the  stock  phrases  of 
contemporary  history :  "  Peace  with  honour,"  "  Egypt  for  the 
Egyptians,"  "  Art  for  Art's  sake,"  etc.,  etc.f  True  to  Shake- 
spearean practice,  Shaw  revels  in  anachronisms,  and  goes  so 
far  as  to  assert  that  this  is  the  only  way  to  make  the  historic 
past  take  form  and  life  before  our  eyes.  If  Shakespeare  makes 
a  clock  strike  in  ancient  Rome,  Shaw  shows  a  steam  engine  at 

*Cf.  Genealogy  of  Morals  (Translated  by  William  A.  Hausemann,  the 
Macmillan  Co.),  where  Nietzsche  points  out  that  in  the  case  of  "noble  men," 
prudence  is  far  less  essential  than  the  "perfect  reliableness  of  function 
of  the  regulating,  unconscious  instincts  or  even  a  certain  imprudence,  such 
as  readiness  to  encounter  things — whether  danger  or  an  enemy,  or  that 
eccentric  suddenness  of  anger,  love,  reverence,  gratitude  and  revenge  by 
which  noble  souls  at  all  times  have  recognized  themselves  as  such." 

•\C03sar  and  Cleopatra,  in  respect  to  its  revolt  against  the  dogmas  of 
classical  antiquity,  against  the  accepted  conventions  in  the  reconstitution 
of  past  epochs,  has  been  classed  by  Herr  Heinrich  Stumcke  with  the  Casar 
in  Alexandria  of  Mora  and  Thoele's  Heidnischen  Geschichten.  In  a  skit, 
Casar  (ohne  Cleopatra) ,  by  the  German  dramatic  critic,  Alfred  Kerr,  and 
dedicated  "  an  Bernard  Shaw  mit  freundlichen  Grussen,"  this  feature  is 
wittily  satirized,  in  these  two  verses: 

"Konnt  ich  den  Zweck  des  Blodsinns  ahnen! 
Ich  fuhrte  manchen  schweren  Streich, 
Bezwang  mit  Muhe  die  Germanen — 
Trotzdem  kommt  Sedan  und  das  Reich. 

"Ein  Zauberer,  ihr  grossen  Gotter, 
1st  jener  nordische  Poet; 
Herr  Arnold  Rubek  bleibt  mein  Vetter: 
Dich,  Leben!   Leben!  spur  ich  spat.  .   .  ." 

340 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

work  in  Alexandria  in  48  b.c.  !  If  Shakespeare  puts  a  billiard 
table  in  Cleopatra's  palace,  Shaw  alludes  to  the  ancient  super- 
stition of  table-rapping  in  the  year  707  of  the  Republic  !  Shaw 
gives  free  play  to  his  abounding  humour,  having  long  since 
learned  that  nothing  can  be  accomplished  by  solemnity.  "  When- 
ever I  feel  in  writing  a  play,"  he  frankly  confesses,  "  that  my 
great  command  of  the  sublime  threatens  to  induce  solemnity  of 
mind  in  my  audience,  I  at  once  introduce  a  joke  and  knock  the 
solemn  people  from  their  perch."  The  eighteenth-century  Irish- 
man, with  his  contempt  for  John  Bull,  peeps  out  here  and  there ; 
and  when  Cleopatra  asks  Britannus,  Cassar's  young  secretary 
from  Britain,  if  it  were  true  that  he  was  painted  all  over  blue, 
when  Caesar  captured  him,  Britannus  proudly  replies :  "  Blue  is 
the  colour  worn  by  all  Britons  of  good  standing.  In  war  we 
stain  our  bodies  blue;  so  that  though  our  enemies  may  strip 
us  of  our  clothes  and  our  lives,  they  cannot  strip  us  of  our 
respectability." 

In  Ccesar  and  Cleopatra  Shaw  has  created  something  more 
or  less  than  drama — a  tremendous  fantasy  surcharged  and  inter- 
penetrated with  deep  imaginative  reality.  In  certain  plays  of 
which  I  shall  now  speak,  Shaw  shows  that  he  can  play  the 
dramatist,  pure  and  simple,  and  write  with  a  concentration  of 
energy,  a  compression  of  emotive  intensity,  that  seem  very  for- 
eign to  the  prolixity  and  discursiveness  of  his  later  manner. 
The  stern  artistic  discipline  to  which  he  nearly  succeeded  in 
schooling  himself  in  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession,  once  more  ex- 
hibits itself  in  The  Man  of  Destiny,  Candida  and  The  Devil's 
Disciple.  The  essential  fact  that  these  plays  have  proved  pop- 
ular stage  successes  in  the  capitals  of  the  world — New  York, 
London,  Berlin,  Vienna,  Dresden,  St.  Petersburg,  Buda-Pesth, 
Brussels,  etc. — is  in  itself  testimony  to  the  fact  that — always 
allowing  for  the  refraction  of  the  Shavian  temperament — Ber- 
nard Shaw  is  a  true  dramatist,  capable  of  touching  the  deeper 
emotions  and  appealing  to  universal  sentiments. 

In  speaking  of  his  earliest  works,  Shaw  airily  refers  to  those 
"  vain  brilliancies  given  off  in  the  days  of  my  health  and 
strength."  Perhaps  something  of  their  diffuseness,  and  the  lack 
of  concentrative  thought  evident  in  their  construction,  are  ex- 

341 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

plained,  not  alone  by  reference  to  Shaw's  intransigeance,  but 
in  part  by  the  conditions  under  which  they  were  written.  A 
bit  of  reminiscence  voiced  by  the  great  English  comedian,  Sir 
Charles  Wyndham,  is  illuminating: 

"  I  shall  never  forget  the  first  time  Shaw  called  to  see 
me.  In  those  days  he  would  not  have  a  bit  of  linen  about 
him.  He  wore  soft  shirts  and  long,  flowing  ties,  which, 
with  his  tawny  hair  and  long,  red  beard,  gave  him  the  ap- 
pearance of  a  veritable  Viking.  Well,  he  came  in  and  sat 
down  at  the  table.  Then  he  put  his  hand  into  his  right 
trousers  pocket  and  slowly  drew  out  a  small  pocket  mem- 
orandum-book; then  he  dug  into  the  left  side-pocket  and 
fished  out  another  of  the  little  books,  then  still  another  and 
another.  Finally,  he  paused  in  his  explorations,  looked  at 
me  and  said : 

" '  I  suppose  you're  surprised  to  see  all  these  little 
pocket-books.  The  fact  is,  however,  I  write  my  plays  in 
them  while  riding  around  London  on  top  of  a  'bus.'  "  * 

The  How  and  Where  of  the  composition  of  such  plays 
might  well  account  for  much  inconsequence  and  aerial  gid- 
diness ! 

The  Man  of  Destiny  has  an  origin  not  a  little  unique.  Many 
plays  are  written  for  some  one  great  actor  or  actress — few  are 
written  for  two.  And  yet,  according  to  Shaw's  own  confessions, 
The  Man  of  Destiny  was  written  for  Richard  Mansfield  and 
Ellen  Terry — Mansfield  serving  as  the  model  for  Napoleon, 
Terry  as  the  model  for  the  Lady.  At  this  time,  Shaw  had 
seen  Mansfield  only  in  Dr.  Jekyll  and  Mr.  Hyde  and  Richard 
III.;  and  once  in  1894  had  chatted  with  him  for  an  hour  at 
the  Langham.  The  impression  he  received  was  so  strong,  the 
suggestion  of  Napoleon  so  striking,  that  he  resolved  to  write 
a  play  about  Napoleon  based  on  a  study  of  Mansfield.f 

*The  New  York  Times,  November  20th,  1904. 

f "  Mansfield  was  always  especially  sympathetic  with  the  character  of 
Napoleon,  and,  indeed — however  extravagant  the  statement  may  seem  at 
first  glance — his  personality  comprised  some  of  the  attributes  of  that 
character — stalwart  courage,  vaulting  ambition,  inflexible  will,  resolute  self- 

342 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

In  a  letter  to  Mansfield  (September  8th,  1897),  Shaw  says: 
"  I  was  much  hurt  by  your  contemptuous  refusal  of  A  Man  of 
Destiny,  not  because  I  think  it  one  of  my  masterpieces,  but 
because  Napoleon  is  nobody  else  but  Richard  Mansfield  himself. 
I  studied  the  character  from  you,  and  then  read  up  Napoleon 
and  found  that  I  had  got  him  exactly  right."  *  Shaw  fre- 
quently corresponded  with  Ellen  Terry  during  the  days  he  was 
writing  The  Man  of  Destiny;  he  saw  her  numberless  times  on 
the  stage,  but  had  never  actually  met  her  when  he  wrote  The 
Man  of  Destiny.  Shaw  escaped  the  "  illusion  "  of  the  Lyceum, 
created  by  "  Irving's  incomparable  dignity  and  Terry's  incom- 
parable beauty  " — simply  because  "  I  was  a  dramatist  and 
needed  Ellen  Terry  for  my  own  plays.  ...  I  had  tried  to 
win  her  when  I  wrote  The  Man  of  Destiny,  in  which  the  heroine 
is  simply  a  delineation  of  Ellen  Terry — imperfect,  it  is  true, 
for  who  can  describe  the  indescribable !  "  f 

The  Man  of  Destiny,  Shaw,  in  fact,  confesses,  was  written 
chiefly  to  exhibit  the  virtuosity  of  the  two  principal  characters ; 
and  it  must  be  confessed  that  their  virtuosity  is  so  pervasively 
dazzling  as  occasionally  to  distract  attention  from  the  dramatic 
procedure.  The  unnamed  possibilities  of  the  situation  have 
been  exploited  in  the  subtlest  fashion.  This  little  "  fragment  " 
is  a  dramatic  tour  de  force;  the  rapid  shifting  of  victory  from 
one  side  to  the  other,  the  excitingly  unstable  equilibrium  of 
the  balance  of  power,  the  fierce  war  of  wills  are  of  the  very 
essence  of  true  drama.  The  serious  underlying  issue,  the  strug- 
gle of  Napoleon  for  a  triumph  that  spells  personal  dishonour, 
is  a  dramatic  motive  sanctioned  by  that  great  classic  example, 
the  (Edipus  Rex.  Unlike  Sophocles,  whose  listeners  knew  in 
advance  the  story  of  the  ill-fated  king,  Shaw  withholds  from 
the  spectator  any  foreknowledge  of  the  outcome ;  but  the  grow- 

confidence,  great  capacity  for  labour,  iron  endurance,  promptitude  of 
decision,  propensity  for  large  schemes,  and  passionate  taste  for  profusion 
of  opulent  surroundings." — William  Winter's  Life  and  Art  of  Richard 
Mansfield,  Vol.  I.,  pp.  222-223;  Moffat,  Yard  and  Co.,  New  York,  1910. 

*  Richard  Mansfield:  The  Man  and  the  Actor,  by  Paul  Wilstach,  p.  264; 
Charles  Scribner's  Sons,  New  York,  1909. 

f  Ellen  Terry,  by  Bernard  Shaw.  Neue  Freie  Presse,  January,  1906; 
English  translation,  Boston  Transcript,  January  20th,  1906. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

ing  curiosity  of  Napoleon,  instantaneously  inducing  like  in- 
quisitiveness  on  the  part  of  the  spectator,  is  one  of  the  chief 
factors  of  interest  in  the  play.  Early  in  the  development  of 
the  action,  the  purpose  of  the  letter  is  readily  guessed  by  anyone 
familiar  with  such  Napoleonic  history  as  is  recorded,  for  exam- 
ple, in  the  Memoirs  of  Barras.* 

As  Shaw's  Caesar  is  his  interpretation  of  the  great  man  of 
ancient  history,  so  Napoleon  is  his  interpretation  of  the  great 
man  of  modern  history.  Shaw's  Napoleon  is  a  strange  mixture 
of  noble  and  ignoble  impulses.  He  is  strangely  imaginative — a 
dreamer  in  the  great  sense,  with  a  touch  of  the  superstition  of 
a  Wallenstein,  a  great  faith  in  his  star.  A  ravenous  beast  at 
table,  he  feverishly  gorges  his  food,  while  his  hair  sweeps  into 
the  ink  and  the  gravy;  his  absolute  obliviousness  to  surround- 
ings is  the  mask  of  tremendous  energy  of  purpose.  Gravy  an- 
swers the  purpose  of  ink,  a  grape  hull  marks  a  strategic  point 
on  the  map :  the  mark,  not  the  material,  is  Napoleon's  concern. 
And  it  is  the  impreuu  of  his  decisions  that  so  often  puts  his 
adversaries  to  rout.  M.  Filon  protests  against  Shaw's  portrait 
of  Napoleon  as  a  mere  repetition  of  the  caricatures  of  Gillray 
and  the  calumniating  distortions  of  the  historian  Seeley;  but 
Shaw's  Napoleon  is,  in  great  measure,  not  the  Napoleon  of 
the  glorified  Bonapartist  chromo,  but  the  Napoleon  post-figured 
by  his  later  career.  Le  Petit  Caporal  is  the  ancestor  of  the 
Emperor  Napoleon  I. ;  and  in  this  early  phase,  Napoleon  may  be 
best  described  in  the  sneering  characterization  of  the  Lady  as 
"  the  vile,  vulgar  Corsican  adventurer."  Says  Mr.  John  Cor- 
bin :  "  The  final  sensation  of  the  character  is  of  vast  unquencha- 
ble energy  and  intelligence,  at  once  brutally  real  and  sublimely 

*  On  account  of  the  vagueness  of  the  story  in  certain  details,  Mr.  John 
Corbin  has  taken  Shaw  to  task  for  not  stating  "who  the  Lady  is  and  why 
she  was  so  heroically  bent  on  rescuing  Napoleon  from  himself."  It  suffices 
to  know  that  she  is  Josephine's  emissary,  sent  to  intercept  the  incriminating 
letter.  Her  duel  with  Napoleon  is  a  heroic  effort,  not  to  "  rescue  Napoleon 
from  himself,"  but,  by  playing  upon  his  boundless  ambition,  to  prevent  him 
from  discovering  the  extent  of  Josephine's  perfidy,  and  to  rescue  Josephine 
from  the  consequences  of  her  indiscretion.  That  the  Lady  in  the  end  proves 
faithless  to  her  trust  merely  transposes  the  key  from  tragedy  to  comedy; 
and  the  dramatic  excellence  of  the  play  is  no  whit  impaired  by  this 
characteristically  Shawesque  conclusion. 

344 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

theatrical.  And  is  not  this  the  great  Napoleon?  By  virtue 
of  this  mingling  of  seemingly  opposed  but  inherently  true 
qualities  this  Man  of  Destiny,  for  all  the  impertinences  and 
audacities  of  Mr.  Shaw's  pyrotechnics,  may  be  reckoned  the 
best  presentation  of  Napoleon  thus  far  achieved  in  the  drama, 
as  it  is  certainly  by  far  the  most  delightful."  I  asked  Mile. 
Yvette  Guilbert  one  day  if  she  thought  The  Man  of  Destiny 
would  succeed  in  Paris.  "  I  rather  fear  not,"  she  replied. 
"  Shaw's  portrait  is  too  true  to  the  original  to  suit  the 
French!"* 

Towards  the  close  of  The  Man  of  Destiny,  Napoleon,  taking 
for  his  text  the  famous  phrase :  "  The  English  are  a  nation  of 
shop-keepers,"  launches  forth  into  a  perfect  torrent  of  irrele- 
vant histrionic  pyrotechnics.  "  Let  me  explain  the  English  to 
you,"  he  says,  and  in  Shaw's  most  Maxim-gun  style,  proceeds 
to  summarize  the  history  of  England  in  the  nineteenth  century, 
in  a  half -critical,  half -prophetic  philippic,  beginning  with  dis- 
cussion of  the  views  of  the  Manchester  School,  of  British  indus- 
trial and  colonial  policy,  and  of  Imperialism,  and  concluding 
with  allusions  to  Wellington  and  Waterloo !  In  reading  the 
play,  this  passage  appears  to  be  a  gross  irrelevancy  and  an 
absurd  anachronism;  but  on  the  stage  the  speech  appears  to 
be  quite  in  character  with  Shaw's  Napoleon.  Still,  this  passage 
calls  attention  to  Shaw's  most  obvious  and  most  deliberately  com- 
mitted fault:  self -projection  through  the  medium  of  his  char- 
acters. Shaw  identifies  himself  with  his  work  as  possibly  no 
other  dramatist  before  him  has  ever  done.  I  rejoice  in  Shaw  as 
M.  Filon  rejoices  in  Dumas  fits;  selfless  reserve,  abdication  of 
personality,  are  as  impossible  for  Shaw  as  for  Dumas  fits,  and 
I  freely  confess  that  what  I  enjoy  most  in  Shaw's  plays  is — 
Shaw. 

Sir  Charles  Wyndham  was  once  asked  his  opinion  of  the  plays 
of  Bernard  Shaw.  "  Shaw's  works  are  wonderful  intellectual 
studies,  but,"  he  replied  firmly,  "  they  are  not  plays ! "  And 
he  continued :  "  At  one  time  I  saw  a  great  deal  of  Shaw  and 

*I  believe  that  Shaw's  Napoleon  has  never  been  adequately  interpreted 
save  possibly  by  Max  Reinhardt  in  Berlin.  The  impersonation  I  saw  at 
the  Court  Theatre,  London,  in  June,  1907,  was  an  egregious  failure. 

345 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

had  great  hopes  of  him  as  a  dramatist.  But  he  wouldn't  come 
down  to  earth,  he  wouldn't  be  practical.  When  he  had  just 
completed  Candida  he  came  and  read  it  to  me.  I  told  him  it 
was  '  twenty  years  too  soon  for  England.'  Well,  he  put  it  on 
at  a  special  matinee,  and  it  was  much  applauded.  Then  Shaw 
went  out  and  addressed  the  audience.  '  I  read  the  play  to 
Wyndham,'  he  said  in  his  speech,  '  and  he  told  me  it  was  twenty 
years  too  soon.  You  have  given  the  contradiction  to  that  state- 
ment.' "  Candida  has  been  played  on  some  of  the  greatest 
stages  of  Europe,  as  well  as  all  over  England  and  America,  and 
leading  critics  have  praised  it  as  one  of  the  most  remarkable 
plays  of  this  generation.* 

Candida  is  an  acute  psychological  observation  upon  the  emo- 
tional reverberations  in  the  souls  of  three  clearly  imagined,  ex- 
quisitely realized  characters ;  its  connection  with  pre-Raphaelit- 
ism,  as  Mr.  Shaw  confessed  to  me,  is  purely  superficial  and  ex- 
trinsic. Aside  from  its  association  with  a  certain  stage  in 
Shaw's  own  development,  the  character  of  Marchbanks  might 
just  as  well  have  been  linked  with  the  name  of  Shelley ,f  or  with 

*Mr.  W.  K.  Tarpey,  who  called  Candida  "one  of  the  masterpieces 
of  the  world,"  relates  that  some  time  at  the  end  of  1894,  or  beginning  of 
1895,  Shaw  fell  into  a  calm  slumber;  in  a  vision  an  angel  carrying  a  roll  of 
manuscript  appeared  unto  him.  To  Shaw,  who  was  no  whit  abashed,  the 
angel  thus  spoke :  "  Look  here,  Shaw !  wouldn't  it  be  rather  a  good  idea 
if  you  were  to  produce  a  work  of  absolute  genius?  "  Shaw  granted  that  the 
idea  was  not  half  a  bad  one,  although  he  did  not  see  how  it  could  be  carried 
out.  Then  the  angel  resolved  his  doubts :  "  I've  got  a  good  play  here,  that 
is  to  say,  good  for  one  of  us  angels  to  have  written.  We  want  it  produced 
in  London.  The  author  does  not  wish  to  have  his  name  known."  "  Oh ! " 
replied  Shaw,  "  I'll  father  it  with  pleasure ;  it  is  not  up  to  my  form,  but 
I  don't  care  much  for  my  reputation."  Shaw  undertook  the  business  side 
of  the  matter,  put  in  the  comic  relief,  and  named  the  play  Candida:  a 


f  Mr.  Arnold  Daly  was  in  the  habit  of  opening  the  third  act  of  Candida 
by  reading  the  familiar  verses  of  Shelley  to  an  unnamed  love: 

"One  word  is  too  oft  profaned 

For  me  to  profane  it; 
One  feeling  too  falsely  disclaimed 

For  thee  to  disclaim  it. 
One  hope  is  too  like  despair 

For  prudence  to  smother, 
And  pity  from  thee  more  dear 

Than  that  from  another. 

346 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

the  Celtic  Renascence  of  to-day;  but  the  whole  atmosphere  of 
the  play  makes  it  inconceivable  at  any  time  in  the  world's  his- 
tory save  in  the  age  of  Ibsen.  It  bears  marked  resemblances 
to  The  Comedy  of  Love  and  The  Lady  from  the  Sea.  Candida 
portrays  the  conflict  between  prose  convention  and  poetic 
anarchy,  concretely  mirroring  that  conflict  of  human  wills 
which  Brunetiere  announced  as  the  criterion  of  authentic  drama. 
"  Unity,  however  desirable  in  political  agitations,"  Shaw  once 
wrote,  in  reference  to  this  play,  "  is  fatal  to  drama,  since  every 
drama  must  be  the  artistic  presentation  of  a  conflict.  The  end 
may  be  reconciliation  or  destruction,  or,  as  in  life  itself,  there 
may  be  no  end;  but  the  conflict  is  indispensable:  no  conflict, 
no  drama." 

In  striking  contrast  to  many  of  Shaw's  plays  which  are 
marked  by  a  hyper-natural,  almost  blatant  psychology,  Candida 
reveals  in  Shaw  a  mastery  of  what  may  be  termed  profound 
psychological  secrecy.  "  This  is  the  play  in  which  Bernard 
Shaw  has  tried  to  dig  deepest,  and  has  used  his  material  with 
the  greatest  economy,"  wrote  Dr.  Brandes,  in  1902.  "  The 
quietude  of  the  action,  which  works  itself  out  purely  in  dialogue, 
is  here  akin  to  Ibsen's  quietude.  .  .  .  There  is  great  depth  of 
thought  in  this  play,  and  a  knowledge  of  the  human  soul  which 
penetrates  far  below  the  surface."  A  domestic  drama — little 
more  than  a  "  scene  from  private  life  " — Candida  is  the  latest 
form  of  Diderot's  invention,  the  bourgeois  drama.  Abounding 
in  scenes  and  situations  tense  with  emotional  and  dramatic 
power,  it  is  stamped  with  the  finish  and  restraint  of  great  art. 
The  characters  in  this  play,  so  chameleon-like  in  its  changing 
lustres,  at  every  instant  turn  toward  the  light  new  facets  of 
their  natures.  We  catch  the  iridescent  and  ever-varying  tints  of 
life ;  and  over  all  is  a  sparkle  of  fine  and  subtle  humour,  lighten- 
ing the  tension  of  soul-conflicts  with  touches  of  homely  veracity. 
"  I  can  give  not  what  men  call  love, 

But  wilt  thou  accept  not 
The  worship  the  heart  lifts  above 

And  the  heavens  reject  not, 
The  desire  of  the  moth  for  the  star, 

Of  the  night  for  the  morrow, 
The  devotion  to  something  afar 

From  the  sphere  of  our  sorrow?" 

347 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

The  "  auction  scene  "  of  the  third  act  is  transcendentally  real, 
making  an  almost  imperceptible  transition  from  verisimilitude 
to  fantasy.*  Indulging  his  penchant  for  dialectic,  Shaw  here 
turns  advocate,  and  argues  the  case  with  all  the  surety  of  the 
lawyer,  the  art  of  the  litterateur.  Men  and  women  do  not 
guide  their  actions  in  accordance  with  the  dictates  of  pure  rea- 
son; as  Alceste  says  to  Philinte  in  Le  Misanthrope  : 

"'Tis  true  my  reason  tells  me  so  each  day; 
Yet  reason's  not  the  power  to  govern  love." 

And,  after  all,  the  auction  scene  is  merely  the  scene  a  faire, 
leaving  the  situation  absolutely  unchanged.  As  Shaw  himself 
once  confessed :  "  It  is  an  interesting  sample  of  the  way  in  which 
a  scene,  which  should  be  conceived  and  written  only  by  tran- 
scending the  ordinary  notion  of  the  relations  between  the  per- 
sons, nevertheless  stirs  the  ordinary  emotions  to  a  very  high 
degree,  all  the  more  because  the  language  of  the  poet,  to  those 
who  have  not  the  clue  to  it,  is  mysterious  and  bewildering,  and, 
therefore,  worshipful.  I  divined  it  myself  before  I  found  out 
the  whole  truth  about  it." 

Candida  well  justifies  its  sub-title  of  a  Mystery  in  the  number 
of  astounding  interpretations  given  it  by  the  critics.  In  France 
it  was  regarded  as  a  new  solution  of  the  Feminist  problem.  Can- 
dida remains  as  the  free  companion  of  a  weak  man,  we  are  told 
by  certain  foreign  critics,  because  "  she  understands  that  she 
has  a  duty  to  fulfil  to  her  big  baby  of  a  husband,  who  could  no 
longer  succeed  in  playing  his  role  in  society  without  the  firm 
hand  which  sustains  and  guides  him."    M.  Maurice  Muret,  who 

*In  a  notable  conference  on  Candida  at  the  Th6atre  des  Arts,  in  Paris, 
preceding  a  production  of  that  play,  during  the  latter  part  of  May,  1908, 
Mme.  Georgette  Le  Blanc-Maeterlinck  said:  "La  situation  du  mari  n'est 
pas  neuve,  mais  elle  se  presente  ordinairement  au  troisieme  acte,  et  elle 
est  toujours  tranchee  sans  que  la  conscience  intervienne,  elle  est  tranchee 
par  la  jalousie,  par  la  douleur  et  la  mort.  Ici,  nous  avons  affaire  a  des 
intelligences  meilleures,  a  des  §tres  qui  essayent  de  se  conduire  d'apres  leur 
raison  et  leur  volonte  la  plus  haute.  .  .  .  C'est  leur  effort  de  sagesse  qui  les 
rend  absolument  illogiques,  les  soustrait  a  l'analyse  et  les  rend  presque 
inadmissibles  a  la  lecture;  mais  c'est  parce  qu'ils  sont  illogiques,  comme 
nous  tous,  qu'ils  sont  si  vivants,  si  curieux  en  scene." — Le  Figaro,  May  30th, 
1908;  also  L'Art  Moderne,  September  20th  and  27th,  1908. 

348 


THEME  DES  IBIS 

(THEATRE  OES  BATIBNOLLES) 

?$,  Boulevard  des  Satignolles,  79 


asetho   :    vtt«Lifin8*t%oase 


Tous  les  Soirs,  a  9  heures 


CANDIDA 


Piece  en  3  acles,  de  Bernard  SHAW 

Version   ttsncaiae   d'Augustin    el   Henrietto   SAMON 


VERASERGINE 


DIMANCHES   ET  FETES 

MATINEE  A  2  HEURES 

Tous  les  Soirs  &  9  heures 


VERHN,  41taaB»P«rl«  —  tmprtiMri*  «p«otol«  jour  Fuhlieltto  ih—tralw  •*  Twr  o«m  arttfttanMa 

Playbill  of  Candida. 
Theatre  des  Arts,  Paris.     Director:  Robert  d'Humieres.     May  7th,  8th, 
9th,  1908.     Twenty-five  subsequent  performances.     Shaw's  only  play  to  be 
produced  in  France  to  date. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

wrote  me  that  he  was  induced  to  read  Candida  by  laudatory 
articles  in  the  German  Press  after  Agnes  Sorma's  production 
in  Berlin,  has  thus  betrayed  his  comic  misunderstanding: 
"  From  the  mass  of  femmes  revoltees  who  encumber  the  con- 
temporary drama,  the  personage  of  Candida  stands  out  with 
happy  distinction.  Feminist  literature  has  produced  nothing 
comparable  to  this  exquisite  figure.  A  tardy,  but  brilliant  re- 
venge of  the  traditional  ideal  upon  the  new  ideal,  is  this  victory 
of  la  femme  selon  Titien  over  the  Scandinavian  virago,  this  tri- 
umph of  Candida  over  Nora  " !  *  And  one  of  the  most  eminent 
of  German  dramatic  critics,  after  Lili  Petri's  production  in 
Vienna,  said  in  an  open  letter  to  Shaw :  "  It  is  not  virtue ;  not 
prosaically  bourgeois,  nor  vaguely  romantic,  feeling;  nor  even 
the  strength  of  this  Morell,  but  simply  his  weakness,  which 
chains  Candida  to  his  side:  because  he  needs  her,  the  woman 
loves  him  more  than  the  young  poet,  who  may  perhaps  recover 
from  his  disappointment  and  learn  to  live  without  her.  Shaw, 
Bernard,  Irishman!     I  abjure  thee!" 

Not  only  with  such  interpretations,  but  even  with  Shaw's  own 
dissection  of  his  greatest  play,  I  find  it  quite  impossible  to  sym- 
pathize or  to  agree,  Shaw  seems  merely  to  be  taking  a  fling  at 
the  "  Candidamaniacs,"  as  he  called  the  play's  admirers ;  his 
"  analysis  "  strikes  me  as  a  batch  of  Shavian  half-truths,  rather 
than  a  fair  estimate  of  the  play's  true  significance.  In  answer 
to  Mr.  Huneker's  question  a  propos  of  Candida's  famous 
"  shawl  "  speech,  Shaw  wrote : 

"  Don't  ask  me  conundrums  about  that  very  immoral 
female  Candida.  Observe  the  entry  of  W.  Burgess : '  You're 
the  lady  as  hused  to  typewrite  for  him? '  '  No.'  '  Naaow: 
she  was  younger?  '  And  therefore  Candida  sacked  her. 
Prossy  is  a  very  highly  selected  young  person  indeed,  de- 
voted to  Morell  to  the  extent  of  helping  in  the  kitchen,  but 
to  him  the  merest  pet  rabbit,  unable  to  get  the  slightest 
hold  on  him.     Candida  is  as  unscrupulous   as   Siegfried: 

*  De  Nora  a  Candida,  by  Maurice  Muret;  Journal  des  Dibats,  No.  544, 
June  24th,  1904,  pp.  1216-1218. 

350 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

Morell  himself  sees  that  '  no  law  will  bind  her.'  She  seduces 
Eugene  just  exactly  as  far  as  it  is  worth  her  while  to 
seduce  him.  She  is  a  woman  without  character  in  the 
conventional  sense.  Without  brains  and  strength  of  mind 
she  would  be  a  wretched  slattern  or  voluptuary.  She  is 
straight  for  natural  reasons,  not  for  conventional  ethical 
ones.  Nothing  can  be  more  cold-bloodedly  reasonable  than 
her  farewell  to  Eugene.  '  All  very  well,  my  lad ;  but  I  don't 
quite  see  myself  at  fifty  with  a  husband  of  thirty-five. 
It  is  just  this  freedom  from  emotional  slop,  this  unerring 
wisdom  on  the  domestic  plane,  that  makes  her  so  com- 
pletely mistress  of  the  situation. 

"  Then  consider  the  poet.  She  makes  a  man  of  him  by 
showing  him  his  own  strength — that  David  must  do  with- 
out poor  Uriah's  wife.  And  then  she  pitches  in  her  picture 
of  the  home,  the  onions,  and  the  tradesmen,  and  the  cos- 
setting  of  big  baby  Morell.  The  New  York  Hausfraw 
thinks  it  a  little  paradise ;  but  the  poet  rises  up  and  says : 
'  Out,  then,  into  the  night  with  me  ' — Tristan's  holy  night. 
If  this  greasy  fool's  paradise  is  happiness,  then  I  give 
it  to  you  with  both  hands,  6  life  is  nobler  than  that.'  That 
is  the  6  poet's  secret.'  The  young  things  in  front  weep 
to  see  the  poor  boy  going  out  lonely  and  broken-hearted  in 
the  cold  night  to  save  the  proprieties  of  New  England 
Puritanism;  but  he  is  really  a  god  going  back  to  his 
heaven,  proud,  unspeakably  contemptuous  of  the  happiness 
he  envied  in  the  days  of  his  blindness,  clearly  seeing  that 
he  has  higher  business  on  hand  than  Candida.  She  has 
a  little  quaint  intuition  of  the  completeness  of  his  cure: 
she  says :  '  He  has  learnt  to  do  without  happiness.'  "  * 

Candida  quickly  divines  that  Marchbanks  is  "  falling  in  love 
with  her,"  and  whilst  fully  conscious  of  her  charms,  she  is  equally 
conscious  of  the  evil  that  may  be  wrought  by  unscrupulous  use 
of  them.  She  has  too  much  respect  for  Marchbanks'  passion 
to  insult  him  with  virtuous  indignation.     Her  maternal  insight 

*  The  Truth  about  Candida,  by  James  Huneker,  Metropolitan  Magazine, 
August,  1904. 

351 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

enables  her  to  sympathize  with  him  in  his  aspirations  and  in  his 
struggles. 

It  is  quite  true  that  Candida's  standards  are  instinctively 
natural,  not  conventionally  ethical :  "  Put  your  trust  in  my  love, 
James,  not  in  my  conscience,"  is  her  eminently  sound  point  of 
view.    It  is  her  desire  to  save  Eugene  from  future  pain,  to  show 


Theatre  Royal 

Bureaux  1  1/2  h. 


du 


Bideaa  2  b. 


MATINEES  LITTBRAIBES 

Jeudi  14  Fevrier      Dimanche  17  Fevrier      Jeud)  21  FSvrler 
St'rie  8.  Serie  I).  Sene  C 

Conference  sur  le  Theatre  de  Bernard  Shaw,  par  MA.  HA  HON 

tteprescautioa  4s 

CANDIDA 

Piece  en  S  «1Cles.  de  Bernard  Shtfio,  traduile  par  .4.  ct  H  Hamon 


M>  ALICE  ARCHAINBAUD 

Candida 


fto-f f«nd  J»mes  *avor  Morfll     WW.  MftPEVTIKK  J  Prre  Burg«s    MM.  VERIEZ  J  Candida    *••  Alke  ARCKAMBAi;! 
BuRenc  Murcbbafiks  JOACHIM        |  Alexandre  Kill         tMlM   I  Proserpine       Carmen  «*ASS&V« 

Le  bureau  de  location  est  on  vert  tous  lea  jours,  da  io  a  7  honres  de-rale  vea.  «»  THcftutm  "iYi  ** , 
Affiles  Tjie«tr»le».  J. MORELS  et  ft.  rue  SNPierre    " 

Playbill  of  Candida. 
Theatre   Royal  du  Pare,  Brussels.     Preceded  by  a  conference   on   TTte 
Theatre  of  Bernard  Shaw,  by  M.  A.  Hamon.     Four  "  Matinees  Litt£raires," 
February  7th,  14th,  17th,  21st,  1907.     First  production  of  any  of  Shaw's 
plays  in  the  French  language. 

him  quite  gently  the  hopelessness  of  his  passion,  that  leads 
her  to  "  seduce "  him  into  perfect  self-expression,  to  make 
clear  to  him  that  he  is  a  "  foolish  boy  "  and  that  her  love 
is  not  the  inevitable  reward  for  the  triumph  of  his  logic.    March- 

352 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

banks'  magnificent  bid  of  "  his  soul's  need  "  does  not  win  her, 
because  she  loves  Morell.  Taught  by  Candida  to  recognize  the 
difference  between  poetic  vision  and  prosaic  actuality,  March- 
banks  realizes  that  his  hour  has  struck:  it  is  the  end  of  his 
youth.  He  has  made  the  inevitable  Shavian  discovery  that 
service,  not  happiness,  is  the  nobler  aim  in  life ;  and  this  episode 
in  his  soul's  history,  as  Friedrich  Dusel  suggests,  should  be  en- 
titled, "  Wie  aus  emem  Knaben  ein  Mann  wtrd."  He  has  learnt 
to  do  without  happiness,  not  because  he  has  been  completely 
cured  of  love,  but  because  he  has  learnt  that  his  own  love  soars 
far  above  the  unideal  plane  of  Burgess — or  is  it  bourgeois? — 
respectability.  This,  indeed,  is  the  "  secret  in  the  poet's 
heart " ;  otherwise  the  golden-winged  god  of  dreams  shrivels  up 
into  a  pitiful  shape  of  egoism.  Candida  is  a  miracle  of  candour 
and  sympathy;  she  lacks  the  one  essential — true  comprehension 
of  his  love.  Possessing  some  sort  of  spiritual  affinity  with  the 
Virgin  of  the  Assumption,  she  lacks  the  faintest  sympathy  or 
concern  with  the  art  of  Titian ;  feeling  some  sort  of  sympathy 
with  Marchbanks  and  what  is  to  her  his  comedy  of  calf-love,  she 
lacks  any  true  comprehension  of  the  fineness  and  spirituality 
of  his  passion.* 

Whatever  interpretation  may  be  adopted,  this  drama  of  dis- 
illusion is  a  work  of  true  genius.  In  a  series  of  productions  by 
the  Independent  Theatre  in  the  English  provinces  in  the  spring 
of  1897,  and  again  in  1898,  Janet  Achurch  (Mrs.  Charles  Char- 
rington)  "  created  "  the  role  of  Candida;  the  cast  was  notable, 

*  Hermann  Bahr  has  acutely  observed:  "  In  the  Germanic  world,  the 
woman  wields  power  over  the  man  only  so  long  as  he  feels  her  to  be  a 
higher  being,  almost  a  saint:  so  Candida  is  the  transcendent,  the  immacu- 
late, the  pure — the  heaven,  the  stars,  the  eternal  light.  And  this  Candida? 
There  is  no  doubt  that  she  is  an  angel.  The  only  question  is  in  which 
heaven  she  dwells.  There  is  a  first  heaven,  and  a  second  heaven,  and  so 
on  up  to  the  seventh  heaven.  In  the  seventh  heaven,  as  you  well  know, 
Shaw,  dwell  only  the  poets;  and  of  the  seventh  heaven  must  the  woman 
be,  before  the  worshipful  Marchbanks  will  once  kneel  to  her,  if,  indeed, 
it  can  be  said  that  a  poet  ever  kneels.  But  your  beloved  Candida  is  of  a 
lower  heaven — a  lesser  alp,  a  thousand  metres  below,  in  the  region  of  the 
respectable  bourgeoisie.  There  is  she  the  saint  the  Germanic  mannikin 
needs.  There  she  shines — shines  for  the  Morells,  the  good  people  who 
inculcate  virtue  and  solve  social  questions  every  Sunday.  And  it  is  there 
that  she  belongs." 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

the  parts  of  Morell  and  Marchbanks  being  taken  by  Mr.  Charles 
Charrington  and  Mr.  Courtenay  Thorpe  respectively.  Doubt- 
less Janet  Achurch's  interpretation  of  Candida  as  the  serene 
clairvoyante  remains  unequalled  to-day,  even  by  Agnes  Sorma 
or  Lili  Petri.  The  play  has  been  patronizingly  spoken  of  as 
an  amusing  little  comedy;  Oliver  Herford,  the  humorist,  hailed 
it  with  great  enthusiasm  as  a  "  problem-farce  " !  But  Candida 
has  always  appealed  to  me,  as  to  Mr.  Gilbert  Chesterton,  "  not 
only  as  the  noblest  work  of  Mr.  Shaw,  but  as  one  of  the  noblest, 
if  not  the  noblest,  of  modern  plays :  a  most  square  and  manly 
piece  of  moral  truth." 

The  Devil's  Disciple  is  the  fourth  and  last  play  in  the  cate- 
gory of  authentically  dramatic  pieces,  ranking  just  below 
Candida  in  the  subtlety  of  its  character-delineation  and  the  mag- 
netic force  of  its  appeal.  The  play  had  its  genesis  in  a  con- 
versation between  Shaw  and  that  remarkable  romantic  actor, 
William  Terriss.     In  Shaw's  words: 

"  One  day  Terriss  sent  for  me,  and  informed  me  that 
since  witnessing  the  production  of  Arms  and  the  Man  he 
regarded  me  as  one  of  the  '  greatest  intellectual  forces  of 
the  present  day.'  He  proposed  to  combine  my  intellect  with 
his  knowledge  of  the  stage  in  the  construction  of  a  play. 
Whereupon  he  gave  me  one  of  the  most  astounding  scenarios 
I  ever  encountered.  .  .  .  When  I  endeavoured  with  all 
my  reasoning  powers  to  convince  this  terrible  Terriss  that 
such  a  scenario  contained  far  too  much  action  and  far  too 
little  delineation  of  character,  he  declared  firmly :  6  Mister 
Shaw,  you  have  convinced  me.'  With  these  words,  and 
without  the  slightest  hesitation,  he  threw  the  whole  scenario 
into  the  fire  with  the  attitude  and  decision  of  a  man  who 
well  knows  that  he  has  another  draft  lying  in  his  desk. 
Nevertheless,  the  fact  that  he  greeted  me  as  a  great  intel- 
lectual force  and  yet  had  implied  that  I  was  incapable  of 
writing  a  popular  melodrama  delighted  me  beyond  words, 
and  I  resolved  to  get  together  all  the  trite  episodes,  all 
the  stale  situations,  which  had  done  such  good  service  in 
the  last  ten  years  in  trashy  plays,  and  combine  them  in  a 

354 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

new  melodrama,  which  should  have  the  appearance  of 
a  deeply  thought-out,  original  modern  play.  The  result  of 
it  all  was  The  DeviVs  Disciple"  * 

The  spontaneity  and  naturalness  which  characterize  the  dia- 
logue of  Shaw's  plays  are  the  results,  in  part,  of  his  habit  of 
writing  his  plays  on  scraps  of  paper  at  odd  times.  And  in  the 
case  of  The  Devil's  Disciple,  Shaw  achieved  the  incomparable 
feat  of  writing  a  brilliant  play  and  "  looking  pleasant "  at  one 
and  the  same  time !  "  A  young  lady  I  know,"  relates  Shaw, 
"  wanted  to  make  a  portrait  of  me,  sitting  on  the  corner  of 
a  table,  which  is  a  favourite  attitude  of  mine.  So  I  wrote  the 
play  in  a  notebook  to  fill  up  the  time." 

In  that  mock-modest  preface,  On  Didbolonian  Ethics,  Shaw 
has  confessed  his  indebtedness  to  literary  history  and  openly 
acknowledged  his  thefts  from  the  past.  But  in  one  place  he 
quietly  asserts  that  he  has  put  something  original  into  this  play. 
"  The  DeviVs  Disciple  has,  in  truth,  a  genuine  novelty  in  it. 
Only,  that  novelty  is  not  any  invention  of  my  own,  but  simply 
the  novelty  of  the  advanced  thought  of  my  own  day."  How 
can  one  express  more  succinctly  the  end  and  aim  of  the  modern 
dramatist?  Goethe  once  said  that  the  great  aim  of  the  modern 
intelligence  should  be  to  gain  control  over  every  means  afforded 
by  the  past,  in  order  thereby  to  enable  himself  to  exhibit  those 
features  in  which  the  modern  world  feels  itself  new  and  different 
and  unique.  A  remarkably  subtle  travesty  upon  melodrama, 
The  DeviVs  Disciple  is  a  picture  of  life  seen  through  the  re- 
fractory temperament  of  a  thoroughly  modern  intelligence. 

The  veiled  satire  underlying  The  DeviVs  Disciple  is  found  in 
the  fact  that,  whilst  speciously  purporting  to  be  a  melodrama, 
by  individual  and  unique  treatment  the  play  gives  the  lie  to  the 
specific  melodramatic  formula.  The  comprehension  of  the  dual 
role  made  this  play  as  presented  by  Richard  Mansfield  peculiarly 
appreciated  by  American  audiences;  in  England,  the  play  was 
absurdly  misunderstood,  as  related  in  one  of  Shaw's  prefaces. 

*  Vornehmlich  iiber  rnich  selbst,  in  Program  No.  88  of  the  Schiller  Thea- 
ter, Berlin.  This  Plcmderei  appeared  originally  in  the  Vienna  Zeit  in 
February,  1903,  shortly  before  the  production  of  Teufelskerl  in  Vienna. 

355 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

If  we  consider  the  crucial  moments  of  the  play,  we  observe  the 
brilliant  way  in  which  Shaw  has  combined  popular  melodrama  for 
the  masses  and  Shavian  satire  upon  melodrama  for  the  discern- 
ing few.  How  the  hardened  old  playgoer  chuckles  over  his 
prevision  of  the  situation  that  is  to  result  after  Dick  is  arrested 
and  led  off  to  prison !  Of  course,  the  minister  will  come  back, 
Judith  will  waver  between  love  for  her  husband  and  desire  to 
save  the  noble  altruist,  the  secret  will  be  torn  from  her  at  last, 
her  husband  will  prepare  to  go  and  take  Dick's  place.  She  will 
adjure  him  to  save  himself,  but  he  will  remain  firm  as  adamant. 
What  a  tumult  of  passions,  what  a  moving  farewell,  every  eye  is 
moist — the  genuine  scene  a  faire!  What  a  sense  of  exquisite 
relief  when  Shaw  has  the  minister  take  the  natural,  the  business- 
like, and  not  the  melodramatic  course !  Again,  in  the  third  act, 
when  Judith,  like  a  true  Shakespearean  heroine,  disregards  the 
convention  of  feminine  fastidiousness  in  order  to  penetrate  to 
the  profoundest  depths  of  Dick's  heart,  the  melodramatic 
formula  is  clear:  Dick  will  kneel  at  Judith's  feet,  pour  out  his 
burning  love  for  her,  the  two  will  revel  in  the  ecstasies  of  la 
grande  passion.  Reality  is  far  subtler  and  more  complex  than 
melodrama — not  a  game  of  heroics,  but  a  clash  of  natures,  says 
Shaw. 

"  You  know  you  did  it  for  his  sake,"  charges  Judith,  "  be- 
lieving he  was  a  more  worthy  man  than  yourself." 

"  Oho !  No,"  laughs  Dick  in  reply ;  "  that's  a  very  pretty 
reason,  I  must  say;  but  I'm  not  so  modest  as  that.  No,  it 
wasn't  for  his  sake." 

Now  she  blushes,  her  heart  beats  painfully,  and  she  asks 
softly :  "  Was  it  for  my  sake  ?  "  "  Perhaps  a  little  for  your 
sake,"  he  indulgently  admits ;  but  when,  emboldened  by  his  words, 
she  romantically  charges  him  to  save  himself,  that  he  may  go 
with  her,  even  to  the  ends  of  the  earth,  he  takes  hold  of  her 
firmly  by  the  wrists,  gazes  steadily  into  her  eyes,  and  says : 

"  If  I  said — to  please  you — that  I  did  what  I  did  ever  so 
little  for  your  sake,  I  lied  as  men  always  lie  to  women.  You 
know  how  much  I  have  lived  with  worthless  men — aye,  and 
worthless  women  too.  Well,  they  could  all  rise  to  some  sort 
of  goodness  and  kindness  when  they  were  in  love.     That  has 

S56 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

taught  me  to  set  very  little  store  by  the  goodness  that  only 
comes  out  red-hot.  What  I  did  last  night,  I  did  in  cold  blood, 
caring  not  half  so  much  for  your  husband  or  for  you  as  I  do 
for  myself.  I  had  no  motive  and  no  interest :  all  I  can  tell  you 
is  that  when  it  came  to  the  point  whether  I  would  take  my  neck 
out  of  the  noose  and  put  another  man's  into  it,  I  could  not  do 
it.  I  don't  know  why  not :  I  see  myself  as  a  fool  for  my  pains ; 
but  I  could  not,  and  I  cannot.  I  have  been  brought  up  standing 
by  the  law  of  my  own  nature;  and  I  may  not  go  against  it, 
gallows  or  no  gallows.  I  should  have  done  the  same  thing  for 
any  other  man  in  the  town,  or  any  other  man's  wife.  Do  you 
understand  that  ?  " 

"  Yes,"  replies  the  stricken  Judith ;  "  you  mean  that  you  do 
not  love  me." 

"  Is  that  all  it  means  to  you  ?  "  asks  the  revolted  Richard, 
with  fierce  contempt. 

"  What  more — what  worse — can  it  mean  to  me?  "  are  Judith's 
final  words. 

Last  of  all,  Shaw  indulges  in  his  most  hazardous  stroke  of 
satire  in  the  scene  of  the  military  tribunal.  Imagine  the  cloud 
of  romantic  gloom  and  melodramatic  horror  that  the  author  of 
La  Tosca  would  have  cast  over  this  valley  of  the  shadow  of 
death!  Shaw  ushers  in  an  exquisite  and  urbane  comedian  to 
irradiate  the  gathering  gloom  with  the  sparks  of  his  audacious 
speech  and  the  scintillations  of  his  heartless  wit.  Thus  Shaw 
elevates  the  plane  of  the  piece  into  a  sublimated  atmosphere  of 
sheer  satire. 

In  The  DeviVs  Disciple,  Shaw  succeeds  in  humanizing  the 
stock  figures  of  melodrama,  revealing  in  them  a  credible  mixture 
of  good  and  evil,  of  reality  and  romance.  In  life  itself,  Shaw 
finds  no  proof  that  a  rake  may  not  be  generous,  nor  a  black- 
guard tender  to  children,  nor  a  minister  virile  and  human.  All 
mothers  are  not  angels,  all  generals  are  not  imposing  dignitaries, 
all  British  soldiers  are  not  Kitcheners  in  initiative  or  Gordons 
in  heroism.  That  Dick  scoffs  at  religion  and  breaks  the  social 
code  does  not  prove  that  he  is  either  naturally  vicious  or  de- 
praved. In  the  stern  asceticism  of  his  nature,  he  is  a  more 
genuine  Puritan  than  his  self-righteous  mother.     Under  every 

357 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

trial  is  he  always  valid  to  himself,  obedient  to  the  law  of  his 
own  nature;  he  might  have  chosen  for  his  device  the  words  of 
Luther :  "  Ich  hann  nicht  anders."  The  play  was  written  for 
Richard  Mansfield;  and  Mr.  Shaw  once  told  me  that  the  part 
of  Dudgeon  was  modelled  upon  Mansfield  himself.  On  the 
stage,  Dudgeon  is  usually  represented  either  as  the  melodramatic 
type  of  hero,  with  white  soft  shirt  and  bared  neck — e.g.,  Karl 
Wiene,  in  Vienna ;  or  as  the  gay  debonair  rake,  counterpart  of 
the  best  type  of  those  fascinating  blades  of  Sheridan  and  the 
other  writers  of  earlier  English  comedy — e.g.,  Richard  Mans- 
field, in  America.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  Dick  is  neither  a  con- 
ventional stage  hero  nor  a  dashing  rake.  "  Dick  Dudgeon  is  a 
Puritan  of  the  Puritans,"  says  Shaw.  "  He  is  brought  up  in 
a  household  where  the  Puritan  religion  has  died  and  become,  in 
its  corruption,  an  excuse  for  his  mother's  master-passion  of 
hatred  in  all  its  phases  of  cruelty  and  envy.  In  such  a  home 
he  finds  himself  starved  of  religion,  which  is  the  most  clamorous 
need  of  his  nature.  With  all  his  mother's  indomitable  selfishness, 
but  with  pity  instead  of  hatred  as  his  master-passion,  he  pities 
the  devil,  takes  his  side,  and  champions  him,  like  a  true  Cove- 
nanter, against  the  world.  He  thus  becomes,  like  all  genuinely 
religious  men,  a  reprobate  and  an  outcast."  Unfortified  by  the 
power  of  a  great  love,  unconsoled  by  hope  of  future  reward, 
Dick  makes  the  truly  heroic  sacrifice  with  all  the  sublime  spirit 
of  a  Carton  or  a  Cyrano.  Of  such  stuff  are  made  not  stage, 
but  real  heroes.  "  He  is  in  one  word,"  says  Mr.  J.  T.  Grein, 
"  a  man,  spotted  it  is  true,  but  a  man,  and,  as  such,  perhaps 
the  most  human  creature  which  native  fancy  has  put  on  our 
modern  stage." 

In  The  Devil's  Disciple,  as  Hermann  Bahr  maintains,  Shaw 
virtually  asserts  the  modern  dramatic  principle  that  every  situa- 
tion of  adventitious  character,  every  external  adventure  which 
meets  the  hero  like  a  vagabond  upon  the  highway,  is  un- 
dramatic;  the  sole  aim  of  modern  drama  is  representation  of 
the  inner  life,  and  all  things  must  be  transposed  into  the  key 
of  spiritual  significance.*     This  principle  is  exemplified  in  the 

*  Rezensionen.     Wiener  Theater,  1901-1903,  by  Hermann   Bahr;  article 
Ein  Teufelskerl,  pp.  440-453. 

358 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— II 

three  leading  characters.  Like  Raina  in  Arms  and  the  Man, 
Judith  learns  by  bitter  experience  to  distrust  the  iridescent 
mirage  of  romance.  Sentimental,  spoiled,  romantic,  this  re- 
fined Lydia  Languish  does  not  know  whether  to  hate,  to  admire, 
or  to  love  the  fascinating,  devil-may-care  rake.  In  the  briefest 
space  of  time,  her  husband  has  become  in  her  eyes  a  coward 
and  a  poltroon.  Her  heart  is  in  a  tumult  of  emotions:  like  a 
willow  she  sways  between  duty  to  her  husband  and  love  for 
the  dashing  Dudgeon.  And  when  she  puts  all  to  the  touch, 
she  discovers  that  her  romance  is  only  a  pretty  figment  of  her 
fancy,  powerless  before  the  omnipotent  passion  of  obligation 
to  self.  And  when  her  husband  appears  in  the  nick  of  time, 
and  proves  to  be  a  hero  after  all,  her  love  floods  back  to  him. 
Dick  must  promise  that  he  will  never  tell!  Surely  the  figure  of 
the  minister's  young  wife,  says  Heinrich  Stumcke,  is  one  of  the 
most  delicate  creations  of  the  English  stage.  "  In  the  recital 
of  Judith's  relations  with  Dick,"  writes  Dr.  Brandes,  "  there 
is  convincing  irony,  and  rare  insight  into  the  idiosyncrasies  and 
subtleties  of  the  feminine  heart." 

Among  the  minor  excellences  of  the  play,  the  figure  of  Bur- 
goyne  stands  out  in  striking  relief.  In  Shaw's  view,  his  Bur- 
goyne  is  not  a  conventional  stage  soldier,  but  "  as  faithful  a 
portrait  as  it  is  in  the  nature  of  stage  portraits  to  be  " — what- 
ever that  may  mean !  In  reality,  Shaw's  Burgoyne  interests  us, 
not  at  all  as  an  historical  personage,  but  as  a  distinct  dramatic 
creation.  "  Gentleman  Johnny,"  suave,  sarcastic,  urbane — the 
high  comedian  with  all  the  exquisite  grace  of  the  eighteenth 
century — delights  us  by  exchanging  rare  repartee  with  Dick 
over  the  banal  topic  of  the  latter's  death.  Burgoyne's  speech 
of  Voltairean  timbre,  quite  in  the  key  of  De  Quincey's  Murder 
as  a  Fine  Art — beginning  with  "  Let  me  persuade  you  to  be 
hanged  " — is  the  finest  ironical  touch  in  English  drama  since 
Sheridan.  "  The  historic  figure  of  the  English  General  Bur- 
goyne," says  Dr.  Brandes,  "  though  he  holds  only  a  subordinate 
place  in  the  play,  stands  forth  with  a  fresh  and  sparkling 
vitality,  such  as  only  great  poets  can  impart  to  their  creations." 
Shaw  once  modestly  averred  that  "  the  most  effective  situation 
on  the  modern  stage  occurs  in  my  own  play — The  DeviVs  Dis- 

359 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

ciple."  I  have  always  had  the  feeling  that  the  first  act  of  this 
play,  although  actually  delaying  the  beginning  of  the  "  love 
story  "  until  the  second  act,  is  the  most  remarkable  act  Shaw 
has  ever  written — a  genre  picture  eminently  worthy  of  the  hand 
of  a  Hogarth  or  a  Dickens.  And,  to  quote  Dr.  Brandes  once 
more,  "  I  consider  The  Devil's  Disciple  a  masterpiece,  whether 
viewed  from  the  psychological  or  the  dramatic  standpoint.  Well 
acted,  it  ought  to  create  a  furore." 


360 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 


"  I  find  that  the  surest  way  to  startle  the  world  with  daring  innovations 
and  originalities  is  to  do  exactly  what  playwrights  have  been  doing  for 
thousands  of  years;  to  revive  the  ancient  attraction  of  long  rhetorical 
speeches;  to  stick  closely  to  the  methods  of  Moliere;  and  to  lift  characters 
bodily  out  of  the  pages  of  Charles  Dickens." — Prophets  of  the  Nineteenth 
Century  (Unpublished),  by  G.  Bernard  Shaw. 

"  I  have  honour  and  humanity  on  my  side,  wit  in  my  head,  skill  in  my  hand, 
and  a  higher  life  for  my  aim." — G.  Bernard  Shaw,  in  the  New  York  Times, 
September  25th,  1905. 


CHAPTER  XII 

71  /TAN  AND  SUPERMAN  inaugurates  another  cycle  of 
J.VJ-  Shaw's  theatre,  and  first  presents  Shaw  to  the  world 
as  a  conscious  philosopher.  By  reason  of  its  bi-partite  na- 
ture— it  is  sub-entitled  A  Comedy  and  a  Philosophy — this  play 
furnishes  the  natural  link  between  Shaw  the  dramatist  and  Shaw 
the  creator  of  a  new  form  of  stage  entertainment.  It  is  worth 
recalling  that  at  the  time  this  play  appeared  Shaw  had  not 
yet  won  the  favour  of  the  "  great  public  "  in  England.  He 
had,  however,  won  the  attention  and  the  enthusiastic,  yet  tem- 
pered, praise  of  one  of  the  ablest  dramatic  critics  in  England. 
Mr.  William  Archer  pronounced  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession  a 
"  masterpiece — yes,  with  all  reservations,  a  masterpiece,"  and  as 
each  one  of  Shaw's  plays  appeared,  he  discussed  it  in  the  fullest 
and  most  impartial  way,  bespoke  for  it  the  attention  of  the 
British  public,  and  roundly  berated  the  managers  of  the  large 
West  End  theatres  for  letting  slip  through  their  fingers  the 
golden  opportunities  afforded  by  the  brilliant  works  of  the  witty 
Irishman.*  For  that  matter,  Shaw  was  not  wanting  in  appre- 
ciative students  of  his  plays  among  the  dramatic  critics  of  the 
day;  and  even  Mr.  Max  Beerbohm  and  Mr.  A.  B.  Walkley, 
though  temperamentally  Shaw's  opposites,  took  the  liveliest  in- 
terest in  the  Shavian  drama. 

Indeed,  it  was  Mr.  Walkley  who  asked  Shaw  to  write  a  Don 
Juan  play;  and  the  fulfilment  of  this  request  was  Man  and 
Superman.  Ab  initio,  Shaw  realized  that  there  are  no  modern 
English  plays  in  which  the  natural  attraction  of  the  sexes  for 
one  another  is  made  the  mainspring  of  the  action.  The  popular 
contemporary  playwrights,  thinking  to  emulate  Ibsen,  had  pro- 
duced plays  cut  according  to  a  certain  pattern,  i.e.,  plays  preoc- 
cupied with  sex,  yet  really  devoid  of  all  sexual  interest.  In  plays, 
of  which  The  Second  Mrs.  Tanqueray  is  the  type  illustration,  the 

*  In  a  subsequent  volume  will  be  indicated  in  detail  Mr.  Archer's  inti- 
mate relation  to  the  growth  of  popular  interest  in  Shaw's  plays. 

363 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

woman  through  indiscretion  is  brought  in  conflict  with  the  law 
which  regulates  the  relation  of  the  sexes,  while  the  man  by  mar- 
riage is  brought  in  conflict  with  the  social  convention  that  dis- 
countenances the  woman.  Such  dramas,  portraying  merely  the 
conflict  of  the  individual  with  society,  Shaw  had  railed  at  in  the 
preface  to  his  Three  Plays  for  Puritans;  such  "  senseless  eva- 
sions "  of  the  real  sex  problem  serve  in  part  to  explain  Shaw's 
partial  lack  of  sympathy  with  Pinero  during  Shaw's  Saturday 
Review  period.  Shaw  was  in  no  mind  to  treat  his  friend  Walk- 
ley  to  a  lurid  play  of  identical  import ;  nor  did  the  Don  Juan  of 
tradition,  literature  and  opera,  the  libertine  of  a  thousand  bonnes 
fortunes,  suit  his  wants  any  better.  The  prototypic  Don  Juan 
of  sixteenth-century  invention,  Moliere's  persistently  impenitent 
type  of  impiety,  and  Mozart's  ravishingly  attractive  enemy  of 
God  had  all  served  their  turn;  whilst  in  Byron's  Don  Juan, 
Shaw  saw  only  a  vagabond  libertine,  a  sailor  with  a  wife  in 
every  port.  Even  that  spiritual  cousin  of  Don  Juan,  Goethe's 
Faust,  although  he  had  passed  far  beyond  mere  love-making  to 
altruism  and  humanitarianism,  was  still  almost  a  century  out  of 
date. 

This  reductio  ad  absurdum  process  finally  gave  Shaw  the 
clue  to  the  mystery;  the  other  types  being  perfected,  and  in  a 
sense  exhausted,  a  Don  Juan  in  the  philosophic  sense  alone 
remained.  The  modern  type  of  Don  Juan  "  no  longer  pretends 
to  read  Ovid,  but  does  actually  read  Schopenhauer  and  Nietz- 
sche, studies  Westermarck,  and  is  concerned  for  the  future  of 
the  race  instead  of  for  the  freedom  of  his  own  instincts."  Con- 
fronted with  the  stark  problem  of  the  duel  of  sex,  Shaw  solved 
it  with  the  striking  conclusion  that  Man  is  no  longer,  like 
Don  Juan,  the  victor  in  that  duel.  Though  sharing  neither 
the  prejudices  of  the  homoist  nor  the  enthusiasms  of  the  fem- 
inist, Shaw  found  it  easy  to  persuade  himself  that  woman  has 
become  dangerous,  aggressive,  powerful.  The  roles  established 
by  romantic  convention,  and  evidenced  in  the  hackneyed  phrase 
"  Man  is  the  hunter,  woman  the  game,"  are  now  reversed : 
Woman  takes  the  initiative  in  the  selection  of  her  mate.  Thus 
is  Don  Juan  reincarnated;  once  the  headlong  huntsman,  he  is 
now  the  helpless  quarry.     Man  and  Superman,  in  Shaw's  own 

364 


HUDSON  THEATRE 

HENRY  8.  HARRIS  Manage* 

ibe  Attractions  for  this  Theatre  furnished  by  Charles  Frohman. 

.    *  ■     •  ■ 

WEEK     BEGINNING     MONDAY     EVENING.     MAY     21,     1906. 

ttv«nfikCB  ««  8.20.  Matinees  Wednesday  *a«  3«tarday   at  ill 


CHARLES  DILLINGHAM  Presenia 

Robert    Loraine 

AJiD  COMPANY 
IN  BERNARD  SHAW'8  COMEDY. 

MAN  AND  SUPERMAN 

Character*. 
,  da  order  of  their  first. appee.aoce.) 

ROEBUCK  RAMSDEN. . .  „ . .  .*• Mr,  L0UT9  MASSE* 

PARLOR  MAID «-.-•< ."..«. Mas  PAULINE  ANTHONY 

OCTAVIUS  ROBINSON , . ; Mr.  ALFRED  HICKMAN 

JOHN  TANNER .....Mr.  ROBERT  LORAINEJ 

MISS  ANN  WHITEFIELD.  , Miss  IDA  CONQUEST 

MRS.  WHITEFIELD....,.., ..MlsaLOIS  FRANCES  CLARK* 

MISS  SUSAN  RAMSDEN . . . . . Miss  SALL1E  WILLIAMS 

MISS  VIOLET  ROBINSON. Miss  NELLIE  THORNB 

HENRY  STRAKER .,.*......« .^.Mr.  EDWARD  ABELE3 

HECTOR  MALONE.  Jr. . . Mr..  CHARLES  OOTTHOLD 

ttfiCTOR  MALONE,  Sfwv. , .  - , Mr.  J.  D.  BEVERIDOE 


Synopsis  of  Scenery. 

,AC/t  J.**~Roebuck  Ramadan'*  study  la  bis  bouse.  Portland  Place.  London-. 
W.    A  €pf  lag  morning. 

ACT  II.— Carriage  drive  of  Mrs.  WbUefieldt  country  borne,.  Richmond. 
Surrey.  England*    Next  day 

AfT  jd&w-Tbe  garden  of  a  yills  to  Graoada.  t>DalB.    Four  days  titer1 

Time— Tbe  present 

— — p— — ■— ■»  ii     ii        ■      i  ■      »■  »n  1 1  a  '    ■      i       i        i   i    i  i  -  i. 

The  play  staged  under  the  direction  of  MR  ROBERT  LORAINE. 

* ■  -'■         i        i —  -r  — i 

Manager  tor- Mr.  Dillingham.  MR.  FRED  O.  LATHAM. 


Program  of  Man  and  Superman. 
Hudson  Theatre,  N.  Y.    May  21st,  1906.    Second  Season. 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

words,  is  "  a  stage  projection  of  the  tragi-comic  love  chase 
of  the  man  by  the  woman." 

Shaw's  solution  of  the  problem  was  generally  regarded  as 
audaciously  novel  and  original.  And  yet,  as  Shaw  points  out  in 
the  Dedicatory  Epistle,  and  as  I  have  indicated  in  a  former 
chapter,  the  notion  is  very  far  from  novel.  Beaumont  and 
Fletcher's  The  Wild  Goose  Chase  furnishes  the  interesting  anal- 
ogy of  Mirabell,  a  travelled  Italianate  gentleman  and  cynical 
philanderer,  pursued  by  Oriana,  the  "  witty  follower  of  the 
chase,"  who  employs  a  number  of  more  or  less  crude  and  coarse 
artifices  to  entrap  him ;  when  the  ingenuity  of  the  dramatists 
is  exhausted,  Mirabell  succumbs  to  Oriana's  wiles.*  And  those 
who  have  a  passion  for  attributing  all  Shaw's  ideas  to  Nietzsche, 
might  find  some  support  in  that  passage  in  A  Genealogy  of 
Morals:  "  The  philosopher  abhors  wedlock  and  all  that  would 
fain  persuade  to  this  state,  as  being  an  obstacle  and  fatality  on 
his  road  to  the  optimum.  Who  among  the  great  philosophers  is 
known  to  have  been  married?  Heraclitus,  Plato,  Descartes, 
Spinoza,  Kant,  Schopenhauer — they  were  not;  nay,  we  cannot 
even  so  much  as  conceive  them  as  married.  A  married  philos- 
opher is  a  figure  of  comedy.    ..." 

The  attitude  toward  woman  exhibited  by  Shaw  in  Man  and 
Superman  has  won  for  him  the  appellation,  "  the  most  ungallant 
of  dramatists."  Mr.  Huneker  has  ventured  to  assert  that  Shaw 
is  "  practically  the  first  literary  man  who  has  achieved  the  feat 
of  making  his  heroines  genuinely  disagreeable  persons."  Now 
to  Wilde  and  to  Strindberg,  woman  is  an  inferior  being,  the 
history  of  woman  being  the  history  of  tyranny  in  its  harshest 
form,  i.e.,  the  tyranny  of  the  weak  over  the  strong.  Shaw  is 
quite  as  far  from  misogyny  on  the  one  hand  as  from  gynolatry 
on  the  other.     From  the  beginning  of  his  literary  career,  Shaw 

*This  parallel  was  called  to  my  attention  by  Professor  William  Lyon 
Phelps,  of  Yale  University.  Compare,  for  example,  Tanner's  long  outburst 
against  the  chains  of  wedlock  with  MirabelPs,  "  I  must  not  lose  my  liberty, 
dear  lady,  and  like  a  wanton  slave  cry  for  more  shackles,"  etc.,  etc.  In 
reply  to  a  question  of  mine  in  regard  to  indebtedness,  Mr.  Shaw  replied: 
"Why,  I  never  thought  of  such  a  thing!  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  old 
English  comedies  are  so  artificial  and  mechanical,  that  I  always  forget  them 
before  I  have  finished  reading  them." 

366 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

has  been  imbued  with  the  conviction  that,  to  use  his  own  words, 
"  women  are  human  beings  just  like  men,  only  worse  brought 
up,  and  consequently  worse  behaved."  In  Shaw's  plays  it  is  a 
toss-up  between  the  men  and  the  women  as  to  which  are  the 
worse  behaved.  The  women  in  Shaw's  plays  seem  always  de- 
liberately to  challenge  the  conventional  ideal  of  the  womanly 
Woman.  As  a  dramatist,  Shaw  rebelled  from  the  very  first 
against  the  long-established  custom  of  making  all  heroines  per- 
fect, all  heroes  chivalrous  and  gallant,  all  villains  irretrievably 
wicked.  Stock  characters,  in  Shaw's  view,  must  be  swept  off 
from  dramatic  art  along  with  romance,  the  womanly  woman,  the 
ideal  heroine,  and  all  the  other  useless  lumber  that  so  fatally 
cumbered  the  British  stage.  In  Shaw's  first  play,  he  con- 
fessedly "  jilted  the  ideal  lady  for  a  real  one,"  and  predicted  that 
he  would  probably  do  it  again  and  again,  even  at  the  risk  of 
having  the  real  ones  mistaken  for  counter-ideals.  Shaw  has 
kept  his  promise,  and  has  been  jilting  the  ideal  lady  ever  since. 
M.  Filon  finds  Shaw's  "  galerie  de  femmes  "  nothing  short  of 
astonishing  in  the  veracity  and  vitality  of  the  likenesses.  Ann 
Whitefield,  whom  Shaw  once  pronounced  his  "  most  gorgeous 
female,"  is  really  one  of  his  least  successful  portraits.  "  As  I 
sat  watching  Everyman  at  the  Charterhouse,"  says  Shaw,  "  I 
said  to  myself,  i  Why  not  Everywoman  ?  '  Ann  was  the  result ; 
every  woman  is  not  Ann ;  but  Ann  is  Everywoman."  Thus  the 
play  takes  on  the  character  of  a  "  morality,"  and  purports  to 
adumbrate  a  deep,  underlying  truth  of  nature.  Unfortunately, 
Shaw  is  not  a  flesh  painter;  Ann  is  not  a  successful  portrait 
of  a  woman  who  is  "  an  unscrupulous  user  of  her  personal  fas- 
cination to  make  men  give  her  what  she  wants."  She  is  deficient 
in  feminine  subtlety — the  obscurer  instincts  and  emotions  of 
sex.  The  strong,  heedless,  unquestioning  voice  of  fruitful  na1 
ture  voices  its  command,  not  through  the  passion  of  a  "  mother 
woman,"  but  through  the  medium  of  the  comic  loquacity  of  a 
laughing  philosopher !  *    In  the  master  works  of  that  sovereign 

*  Compare  the  novel,  The  Confounding  of  Camellia,  by  Anne  Douglas 
Sedgwick,  concretely  imaging  the  thesis  of  Shaw's  play.  The  pursuit  of 
man  is  portrayed  in  its  natural  colours,  the  pursuer  and  temptress  being 
a  seductive  siren  who  exploits  all  the  intricate  wiles  and  complex  arts  of 
personal  fascination  to  ensnare  her  struggling  prey. 

367 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

student  of  human  nature,  Thomas  Hardy,  the  Life  Force  holds 
full  sway;  Wedekind's  Erdgeist  reveals  the  omnivorous,  man- 
eating  monster,  devouring  her  human  prey  with  all  the  ferocity 
1  of  a  she-lioness.  Inability  to  portray  sexual  passion  convinc- 
ingly is  a  limitation  of  Shaw's  art.  And  yet  in  the  present 
instance  we  must  not  forget  that,  as  Mr.  Archer  reminds  us, 
"  no  doubt  the  logic  of  allegory  demanded  that  the  case  should 
be  stated  in  its  extremest  form,  and  that  the  crudest  femineity 
should,  in  the  end,  conquer  the  alertest  and  most  open-eyed  mas- 
culinity." While  concerned  with  the  problem  of  sex,  Man  and 
Superman  remains  a  drama  of  ideas.  And  it  is  difficult  to 
avoid  the  conclusion  that,  had  the  Life  Force  in  Ann  been  su- 
preme, Maeterlinck  would  have  been  vindicated  by  her  in  his 
fine  saying :  "  The  first  kiss  of  the  betrothed  is  but  the  seal 
which  thousands  of  hands,  craving  for  birth,  have  impressed 
upon  the  lips  of  the  mother  they  desire." 

Man  and  Superman  is  the  most  pervasively  brilliant  of  all 
Shaw's  comedies.  And  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  idea-plot 
is  intricate  and  requires  to  be  disengaged  from  the  action-plot 
the  comedy,  as  I  saw  it  produced  in  both  New  York  and  Lon- 
don, gave  rise  to  an  almost  unbroken  burst  of  merriment  on  the 
part  of  the  audience.  It  is  customary  to  identify  Shaw  with 
Tanner ;  and  in  the  first  production  of  Man  and  Superman  at 
the  Court  Theatre,  Tanner  (Mr.  Granville  Barker)  was  "made 
up  "  to  represent  Shaw.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  Mr.  Shaw  once 
told  me  that  in  Tanner,  with  all  his  headlong  loquacity,  is 
satirized  Mr.  H.  M.  Hyndman,  the  great  Socialist  orator.  One 
other  detail  in  the  play  is  noteworthy — the  extrinsically  irrele- 
vant incident  which  leaves  everyone  at  the  end  of  the  first  act 
"  cowering  before  the  wedding-ring."  It  is  an  illustration  of 
a  curious  device  once  or  twice  employed  by  Shaw — a  sort  of 
comic  "  sell "  of  the  audience,  appearing  beside  the  mark  be- 
cause its  relation  with  the  action  is  ideological,  not  dramatic. 
In  general,  the  effect  of  Man  and  Superman  is  to  make  one 
wish  that  Shaw  would  write  a  comedy  of  matrimony  furnishing 
the  lamentable  spectacle  pictured  by  Nietzsche  of  the  married 
philosopher.  Mr.  Robert  Loraine  has  actually  written  a  clever 
sketch  upon  this  theme,  entitled  The  Reformer's  Revenge;  or, 

368 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

the  Revolutionist9 s  Reconcilation  to  Reality;  *  and  Mr.  William 
Archer  publicly  urged  Shaw  to  complete  his  "  Morality  "  and 
(following  the  precedent  of  Lord  Dundreary  Married  and  Set- 
tled) give  us  John  Tanner  Married  and  Done  For. 

The  play  just  discussed  is  the  society  comedy,  as  it  appears 
in  the  printed  book,  with  the  omission  of  the  Shavio-Socratic 
scene  in  hell,  and  one  or  two  alterations  and  omissions  in  the 
printed  play  itself.  The  dream  in  hell — Act  III.  of  the  printed 
book — is  the  ultimate  form  of  Shaw's  drama  of  discussion,  and 
has  actually  been  successfully  presented  at  the  Court  Theatre, 
London.  When  I  saw  it  produced  there,  I  was  surprised  to  note 
the  favour  with  which  it  was  received,  the  brilliancy  and  wit 
of  the  dialogue  compensating  in  great  measure  for  the  absence 
of  all  action  and  the  exceptional  length  of  the  speeches.  At  Y. 
last  Shaw's  dream  of  long  speeches,  Shavian  rhetoric,  and  a 
pit  of  philosophers  was  realized.  Upon  the  average  popular 
audience,  the  effect  would  doubtless  have  been  devastating ;  and 
even  under  the  most  favourable  circumstances,  the  audience  was 
partially  seduced  into  appreciative  interest  by  well-executed 
scenic  effects,  exquisite  costumes  specially  designed  by  Charles 
Ricketts,  and  a  long  synopsis  of  Don  Juan  in  Hell,  especially 
prepared  by  the  author. f 

*  The  Actor's  Society  Monthly  Bulletin,  Christmas,  1905. 

f  "  As  this  scene  may  prove  puzzling  at  a  first  hearing,"  reads  the  leaflet, 
"  to  those  who  are  not  to  some  extent  skilled  in  modern  theology,  the  Man- 
agement have  asked  the  Author  to  offer  the  Court  audience  the  same 
assistance  that  concert-goers  are  accustomed  to  receive  in  the  form  of  an 
analytical  programme."     Follows  the  synopsis: 

"The  scene,  an  abysmal  void,  represents  hell;  and  the  persons  of 
the  drama  speak  of  hell,  heaven  and  earth,  as  if  they  were  separate 
localities,  like  '  the  heavens  above,  the  earth  beneath,  and  the  waters 
under  the  earth.'  It  must  be  remembered  that  such  localizations 
are  purely  figurative,  like  our  fashion  of  calling  a  treble  voice  '  high ' 
and  the  bass  voice  '  low.'  Modern  theology  conceives  heaven  and  hell, 
not  as  places,  but  as  states  of  the  soul;  and  by  the  soul  it  means,  not 
an  organ  like  the  liver,  but  the  divine  element  common  to  all  life,  which 
causes  us  '  to  do  the  will  of  God '  in  addition  to  looking  after  our 
individual  interests,  and  to  honour  one  another  solely  for  our  divine 
activities  and  not  at  all  for  our  selfish  activities. 

"Hell  is  popularly  conceived  not  only  as  a  place,  but  as  a  place 
of  cruelty  and  punishment,  and  heaven  as  a  paradise  of  idle  pleasure. 
These  legends  are  discarded  by  the  higher  theology,  which  holds  that 

369 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

The  year  1904  marks  a  turning-point  in  the  career  of  Bernard 
Shaw.  The  average  age  at  which  artists  create  their  greatest 
work  is  forty-six  to  forty-seven,  according  to  Jastrow's  table; 
and  so,  practically  speaking,  John  BulVs  Other  Island  is  chrono- 
logically announced  as  Shaw's  magnum  opus.  In  the  technical, 
no  less  than  in  the  popular  sense,  this  path-breaking  play 
registers  the  inauguration  of  a  new  epoch  in  Shaw's  career. 
In  this  new  phase  we  find  him  breaking  squarely  with  tradition, 
and  rinding  artistic  freedom  in  nonconformity.  A  true  drama 
of  national  character,  John  BulVs  Other  Island  portrays  the 
conflict  of  racial  types  and  exhibits  its  author  as  a  descendant 
of  Moliere,  a  master  of  comic  irony,  and  at  heart  a  poet. 

this  world,  or  any  other,  may  be  made  a  hell  by  a  society  in  a  state  of 
damnation:  that  is,  a  society  so  lacking  in  the  higher  orders  of  energy 
that  it  is  given  wholly  to  the  pursuit  of  immediate  individual  pleasure, 
and  cannot  even  conceive  the  passion  of  the  divine  will.  Also  that  any 
world  can  be  made  a  heaven  by  a  society  of  persons  in  whom  that  pas- 
sion is  the  master  passion — a  '  communion  of  saints '  in  fact. 

"  In  the  scene  represented  to-day  hell  is  this  state  of  damnation. 
It  is  personified  in  the  traditional  manner  by  the  devil,  who  differs  from 
the  modern  plutocratic  voluptuary  only  in  being  '  true  to  himself ' ; 
that  is,  he  does  not  disguise  his  damnation  either  from  himself  or 
others,  but  boldly  embraces  it  as  the  true  law  of  life,  and  organizes  his 
kingdom  frankly  on  a  basis  of  idle  pleasure  seeking,  and  worships  love, 
beauty,  sentiment,  youth,  romance,  etc.,  etc. 

"  Upon  this  conception  of  heaven  and  hell  the  author  has  fantastically 
grafted  the  seventeenth  century  legend  of  Don  Juan  Tenorio,  Don 
Gonzalo,  of  Ulloa,  Commandant  of  Calatrava,  and  the  Commandant's 
daughter,  Dona  Ana,  as  told  in  the  famous  drama  by  Tirso  de  Molina 
and  in  Mozart's  opera.  Don  Gonzalo,  having,  as  he  says,  *  always  done 
what  it  was  customary  for  a  gentleman  to  do,'  until  he  died  defending 
his  daughter's  honour,  went  to  heaven.  Don  Juan,  having  slain  him, 
and  become  infamous  by  his  failure  to  find  any  permanent  satisfaction 
in  his  love  affairs,  was  cast  into  hell  by  the  ghost  of  Don  Gonzalo, 
whose  statue  he  had  whimsically  invited  to  supper. 

"  The  ancient  melodrama  becomes  the  philosophic  comedy  presented 
to-day,  by  postulating  that  Don  Gonzalo  was  a  simple-minded  officer 
and  gentleman  who  cared  for  nothing  but  fashionable  amusement, 
whilst  Don  Juan  was  oonsumed  with  a  passion  for  divine  contemplation 
and  creative  activity,  this  being  the  secret  of  the  failure  of  love  to 
interest  him  permanently.  Consequently  we  find  Don  Gonzalo,  unable 
to  share  the  divine  ecstasy,  bored  to  distraction  in  heaven;  and  Don 
Juan  suffering  amid  the  pleasures  of  hell  an  agony  of  tedium. 

"  At  last  Don  Gonzalo,  after  paying  several  reconnoitring  visits 
to  hell  under  colour  of  urging  Don  Juan  to  repent,  determines  to  settle 
there  permanently.     At  this  moment  his  daughter,  Ana,  now  full  of 

370 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

Originally  designed  for  production  by  Mr.  W.  B.  Yeats  under 
the  auspices  of  the  Irish  Literary  Theatre,  this  play  was  found 
unsuited  both  to  the  resources  of  the  new  Abbey  Theatre  and 
to  the  temper  of  the  neo-Gaelic  movement.*  Temperamentally 
incapable  of  visionarily  imagining  Ireland  as  "  a  little  old 
woman  called  Kathleen  ni  Hoolihan,"  Shaw  drew  a  bold  and 
uncompromising  picture  of  the  real  Ireland  of  to-day ;  and  the 
sequel  was  the  production  of  the  play,  not  at  the  Abbey,  but 
at  the  Royal  Court  Theatre,  London.  That  interesting  experi- 
ment in  dramatic  production  inaugurated  by  Messrs.  J.  E. 
Vedrenne  and  H.  Granville  Barker  at  the  Royal  Court  Theatre 
in  1904,  furnishes  material  for  the  most  interesting  chapter  in 
the  history  of  the  development  of  the  contemporary  English 

years,  piety,  and  worldly  honours,  dies,  and  finds  herself  with  Don 
Juan  in  hell,  where  she  is  presently  the  amazed  witness  of  the  arrival 
of  her  sainted  father.  The  devil  hastens  to  welcome  both  to  his  realm. 
As  Ana  is  no  theologian,  and  believes  the  popular  legends  as  to  heaven* 
and  hell,  all  this  bewilders  her  extremely. 

"  The  devil,  eager  as  ever  to  reinforce  his  kingdom  by  adding  souls 
to  it,  is  delighted  at  the  accession  of  Don  Gonzalo,  and  desirous  to 
retain  Dona  Ana.  But  he  is  equally  ready  to  get  rid  of  Don  Juan, 
with  whom  he  is  on  terms  of  forced  civility,  the  antipathy  between  them 
being  fundamental.  A  discussion  arises  between  them  as  to  the  merits 
of  the  heavenly  and  hellish  states,  and  the  future  of  the  world.  The 
discussion  lasts  more  than  an  hour,  as  the  parties,  with  eternity  before 
them,  are  in  no  hurry.  Finally,  Don  Juan  shakes  the  dust  of  hell  from 
his  feet,  and  goes  to  heaven. 

"  Dona  Ana,  being  a  woman,  is  incapable  both  of  the  devil's  utter 
damnation  and  of  Don  Juan's  complete  supersensuality.  As  the  mother 
of  many  children,  she  has  shared  in  the  divine  travail,  and  with 
care  and  labour  and  suffering  renewed  the  harvest  of  eternal  life; 
but  the  honour  and  divinity  of  her  work  have  been  jealously  hidden 
from  her  by  man,  who,  dreading  her  domination,  has  offered  her  for 
reward  only  the  satisfaction  of  her  senses  and  affections.  She  cannot, 
like  the  male  devil,  use  love  as  mere  sentiment  and  pleasure;  nor  can 
she,  like  the  male  saint,  put  love  aside  when  it  has  once  done  its  work 
as  a  developing  and  enlightening  experience.  Love  is  neither  her 
pleasure  nor  her  study:  it  is  her  business.  So  she,  in  the  end,  neither 
goes  with  Don  Juan  to  heaven  nor  with  the  devil  and  her  father  to  the 
palace  of  pleasure,  but  declares  that  her  work  is  not  yet  finished.  For 
though  by  her  death  she  is  done  with  the  bearing  of  men  to  mortal 
fathers,  she  may  yet,  as  Woman  immortal,  bear  the  Superman  to  the 
Eternal  Father." 

*In  W.  B.  Yeats's  Collected  Works,  Vol.  IV.,  p.  109   (London:  Chap- 
man and  Hall,  1908),  appears  a  statement   (dated   1903),  with  reference 

371 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

drama.*  The  companies  trained  by  Mr.  Barker,  an  able  actor 
and  already  a  promising  dramatist,  wrought  something  very 
like  a  revolution  in  the  art  of  dramatic  production  in  England. 
The  unity  of  tone,  the  subordination  of  the  individual,  the 
general  striving  for  totality  of  effect,  the  constant  changes  of 
bill,  the  abolition  of  the  "  star  "  system — all  were  noteworthy 
features  of  these  productions.  There  were  given  nine  hundred 
and  eighty-eight  performances  of  thirty-two  plays  by  seventeen 
authors;  seven  hundred  and  one  of  these  performances  were  of 
eleven  plays  by  one  author — Bernard  Shaw.  Plays  of  other 
authors — notably  of  Mr.  Barker  himself — were  produced,  and 
often  with  noticeable  success.  But  in  the  main  the  whole  under- 
taking may  be  regarded  as  a  monster  Shaw  Festspiel,  prolonged 
over  three  years.  Mr.  Barker,  Mr.  Galsworthy,  the  late  Mr. 
/Hankin,  Miss  Elizabeth  Robins  and  Mr.  Masefield,  all  came 
prominently  into  public  notice  as  dramatists  of  the  "  new " 
school.  The  Court  was  not,  in  the  strict  sense,  a  repertory 
theatre;  rather  it  furnished  a  tentative  compromise  between 
the  theatre  a  cote  and  the  actor-managed  theatre  backed  by  a 
syndicate  of  capitalists.  The  Vedrenne-Barker  enterprise  did 
the  imperatively  needed  pioneer  work  of  breaking  ground  for 
the  repertory  theatre  idea ;  created  a  public  of  intelligent  play- 
goers with  literary  tastes,  who  had  long  since  lost  interest  in  the 
theatre  of  commerce ;  developed  a  whole  "  school "  of  play- 
wrights, with  Mr.  Barker  at  their  head;  and  brought  to  the 
English  public  at  large  a  belated  consciousness  of  the  greatness 
of  Bernard  Shaw. 

Coming  at  a  political  Sturm  und  Drang  period,  John  ButVs 
Other  Island  achieved  an  immediate  and  immense  success. 
Leading  figures  in  public  life,  including  Mr.  Arthur  Balfour  and 
the  late  Sir  Henry  Campbell-Bannerman,  again  and  again  heard 
the  play  with  unmitigated  delight ;  and,  finally,  King  Edward 

to  "the  play  which  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw  has  promised  us."  The  appended 
footnote  reads:  "This  play  was  John  Bull's  Other  Island.  "When  it  came 
out  in  the  spring  of  190'5,  we  felt  ourselves  unable  to  cast  it  without  wrong- 
ing Mr.  Shaw.     We  had  no  Broadbent,  or  money  to  get  one." 

*  In  a  subsequent  volume,  dealing  with  the  dramatic  movement  inaugu- 
rated by  Mr.  Shaw,  the  production  of  his  plays  at  the  Court  Theatre  will 
be  fully  discussed. 

372 


From   the   original   monochrome,   made  in    1  908. 


[Facing  p. 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

"  commanded  "  a  special  performance.  The  gods  of  English 
society,  upon  whose  knees  ever  rests  the  ultimate  fate  of  the 
British  artist,  suddenly  awoke  at  last  to  the  realization  of  the 
fact  that  a  genius  was  living  in  their  midst.  John  BulVs  Other 
Island  marked  a  new  stage  in  Shaw's  career ;  for  whilst  the  play 
itself  is  the  fine  fleur  of  Shavian  dramaturgy,  the  characters 
are  set  firmly  upon  solid  ground.  In  Shaw's  former  plays,  as 
a  rule,  the  locality  was  not  strikingly  material,  the  characters 
often  supra-natural,  and  the  ideas  deftly  bandied  about  at 
times,  much  as  a  juggler  manipulates  glass  balls.  This  new 
play  exhibited  nothing  short  of  a  new  type  of  drama.  Emotion 
is  subsidiary  to  idea,  action  is  less  important  than  character, 
and  conflict  of  ideas  replaces  the  conflict  of  wills  of  the  dramatic 
formula. 

In  the  Shavian  Anschauung,  the  action  and  reaction  of  na- 
tional types  inevitably  takes  precedence  over  the  purely  human 
problem  of  the  love  story.  The  study  in  emotional  psychology 
is  the  incidental  underplot  to  the  larger  study  of  England  versus 
Ireland;  here  we  see  the  line  of  cleavage  between  Shaw  and  the 
conventional  dramatist.  Shaw's  hand,  so  deft  in  the  handling/ 
of  national  types,  the  portrayal  of  racial  traits,  failed  him  in 
the  delicate  task  of  the  exhibition  of  vital  emotion.  "  I  do 
not  accuse  Mr.  Shaw  of  dealing  in  symbols,"  says  Mr.  John 
Corbin,  "  but  I  shall  not,  I  am  sure,  misinterpret  him  radically 
in  saying  that  Nora  is  Kathleen  ni  Hoolihan — the  embodiment 
of  his  idea  of  Ireland.  The  real  drama  of  the  piece  centres 
in  the  story  of  how  the  Irishman  loses  Nora  and  the  Briton 
wins  her.  ...  In  his  heart  Larry  loves  his  countrywoman, 
as  she  has  always  loved  him,  and  she  has  no  real  affection  for 
the  Briton.  Here  lies  the  comic  irony  of  the  denouement,  the 
very  essence  of  Shaw's  comment  on  his  problem."  *  The  "  real 
drama,"  one  rather  feels,  is  the  death  struggle  of  nations.  Ire- 
land and  England  are  the  antagonist  and  protagonist,  respect- 
ively, of  the  drama;  and  the  dramatic  characters,  in  a  broad 
sense,  are  both  individualized  human  beings  and  concrete  imper- 
sonations of  racial  traits.    It  seems  to  me  quite  improbable  that 

*  Bernard  Shaw  and  His  Mannikins,  in  the  New  York  Sun,  October  15th, 
1905. 

373 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

John  BulVs  Other  Island  will  "  cross  frontiers  "  as  readily  as 
many  of  Shaw's  other  plays.  For,  despite  the  signal  merits  of 
the  character-drawing,  the  problem  is  essentially  unique,  and, 
as  the  title  implies,  peculiar  to  the  British  Isles. 

Roscullen,  the  scene  of  the  play,  is  a  segment  of  the  living 
Ireland,  and  here  are  encountered  all  those  conflicting  elements 
which  have  made  a  hopeless  enigma  of  the  Irish  question  for  so 
many  generations.  In  this  miniature  Ireland  we  find  jostling 
each  other  the  dreamer  and  the  bigot,  the  superstitious  and  the 
unilluded.  Instead  of  the  great  landowner,  there  is  a  group  of 
small  proprietors,  who  treat  their  employees  and  tenants  with 
a  harshness  and  industrial  cruelty  that  can  only  result  in  the 
latter's  ruin.  Religion  continues  to  be  the  dominant  force  in 
the  community;  and  the  clergy  exhibit  that  profound  political 
sagacity  and  that  unscrupulousness  in  playing  upon  the  super- 
stition of  the  credulous  peasants  which  are  such  defining  marks 
of  the  Roman  Catholic  priesthood.  Ireland's  sense  of  her  op- 
pression and  bitter  wrongs  has  not  succeeded  in  destroying  her 
sense  of  humour,  her  passion  for  mysticism,  and  her  native 
charm.  These  qualities  we  observe  in  the  ineffable  merriment 
of  the  peasants  over  the  comic  spectacle  of  Broadbent  as  an 
unconscious  humorist ;  in  the  fascinating  figure  of  the  Irish  St. 
Francis,  chatting  amicably  with  the  grasshopper  and  breaking 
his  heart  over  Ireland;  and  in  Nora  Reilly,  quintessence  of 
graceful  coquetry,  larmoyant  piquancy  and  Celtic  charm. 

Thomas  Broadbent,  Shaw's  conception  of  the  typical  Eng- 
lishman, approximates  quite  closely  to  Napoleon's  description 
of  the  Englishman  in  The  Man  of  Destiny.  To  Mr.  A.  B. 
Walkley's  characterization  of  John  BulVs  Other  Island  as  a 
"  Shavian  farrago,"  Shaw  replied,  "  Walkley  is  too  thorough 
an  Englishman  to  be  dramatically  conscious  of  what  an  Eng- 
lishman is,  and  too  clever  and  individual  a  man  to  identify  him- 
self with  a  typical  averaged  English  figure.  I  delight  in  Walk- 
ley:  he  has  the  courage  of  his  esprit;  and  it  gives  me  a  sense  of 
power  to  be  able  to  play  with  him  as  I  have  done  in  a  few 
Broadbent  strokes  which  are  taken  straight  from  him."  *     And 

*  George  Bernard  Shaw:  A  Conversation,  in  The  Tatter,  November  16th, 
1904. 

374 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

in  a  letter  to  Mr.  James  Huneker,  of  date  January  4th,  1904, 
Shaw  says,  "  I  tell  you,  you  don't  appreciate  the  vitality  of  the 
English.  .  .  .  Cromwell  said  that  no  man  goes  farther  than  ** 
the  man  who  doesn't  know  where  he  is  going."  In  that  you 
have  the  whole  secret  of  the  "  typical  averaged  English  figure." 
Endowed  with  the  stolid  density  and  exaggerated  self-confidence 
of  the  average  Englishman,  Broadbent  resolves  to  study  the 
apparently  insoluble  Irish  question  "  on  the  ground  " ;  but  his 
incurable  ignorance  of  Ireland's  plight  stands  revealed  in  his 
declared  faith  that  the  panacea  for  all  of  Ireland's  ills  is  to 
be  found  in  the  "  great  principles  of  the  great  Liberal  party." 
Ireland  irresistibly  appeals  to  his  sentimentalities  through  its 
traditional  charms — the  Celtic  melancholy,  the  Irish  voice,  the 
rich  blarney,  the  poetic  brogue.  "  Of  the  evils  you  describe," 
he  says  to  Keegan,  "  some  are  absolutely  necessary  for  the 
preservation  of  society  and  others  are  encouraged  only  when 
the  Tories  are  in  office."  .  .  .  "  I  see  no  evils  in  the  world — 
except,  of  course,  natural  evils — that  cannot  be  remedied  by 
freedom,  self-government,  and  English  institutions.  I  think  so, 
not  because  I  am  an  Englishman,  but  as  a  matter  of  common 
sense."  With  blundering  shrewdness,  Broadbent  announces 
himself  as  a  candidate  for  the  parliamentary  seat,  on  the 
ground  that  he  is  a  Home  Ruler,  a  Nationalist,  and  Ireland's 
truest  friend  and  supporter.  "  Reform,"  he  announces,  "  means 
maintaining  these  reforms  which  have  already  been  conferred 
on  humanity  by  the  Liberal  party,  and  trusting  for  future  de- 
velopments to  the  free  activity  of  a  free  people  on  the  basis 
of  these  reforms."  In  Shaw's  description,  he  (Broadbent)  is 
"  a  robust,  full-blooded,  energetic  man  in  the  prime  of  life, 
sometimes  eager  and  credulous,  sometimes  shrewd  and  roguish, 
sometimes  portentously  solemn,  sometimes  jolly  and  impetuous, 
always  buoyant  and  irresistible,  mostly  likable,  and  enormously 
absurd  in  his  most  earnest  moments." 

Broadbent  is  a  great  comic  figure,  destined  to  take  high  rank 
in  the  portrait-gallery  of  English  letters.  His  foil,  the  Irish- 
man, Larry  Doyle,  without  being  less  interesting,  is  less 
convincingly  portrayed.  Doyle  is  cursed  with  the  habitual 
self-questioning    and    disillusionment    of    the    self-expatriated 

375 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Irishman.  Realizing  the  charm  of  Ireland's  dreams  and  the 
brutality  of  English  facts,  Doyle  longs  discontentedly  for  "  a 
country  to  live  in  where  the  facts  are  not  brutal  and  the  dreams 
not  unreal."  His  hope  for  a  Greater  Ireland  is  based  on  his 
own  dream  of  Irish  intellectual  lucidity  mated  with  English 
push,  the  Irishman's  cleverness  and  power  of  facing  facts 
grafted  on  the  Englishman's  indomitable  perseverance  and  high 
efficiency.  And  yet,  he  has  absorbed  the  English  view  of  his 
own  race ;  this  "  clear-headed,  sane  Irishman,"  so  "  hardily  cal- 
lous to  the  sentimentalities  and  susceptibilities  and  credulities," 
if  we  accept  Shaw's  estimate  of  the  typical  Irishman,  thus  de- 
scribes his  own  countrymen: 

"  Oh,  the  dreaming !  the  dreaming !  the  torturing,  heart- 
scalding,  never-satisfying  dreaming,  dreaming,  dreaming, 
dreaming !  No  debauchery  that  ever  coarsened  and  bru- 
talized an  Englishman  can  take  the  worth  and  usefulness 
out  of  him  like  that  dreaming.  An  Irishman's  imagination 
never  lets  him  alone,  never  convinces  him,  never  satisfies 
him;  but  it  makes  him  that  he  can't  face  reality,  nor  deal 
with  it,  nor  handle  it,  nor  conquer  it :  he  can  only  sneer  at 
them  that  do,  and  be  '  agreeable  to  strangers,'  like  a  good- 
for-nothing  woman  on  the  streets.  It's  all  dreaming,  all 
imagination.  He  can't  be  religious.  The  inspired  church- 
man that  teaches  him  the  sanctity  of  life  and  the  impor- 
tance of  conduct  is  sent  away  empty,  while  the  poor  village 
priest  that  gives  him  a  miracle  or  a  sentimental  story  of 
a  saint  has  cathedrals  built  for  him  out  of  the  pennies  of 
the  poor.  He  can't  be  intelligently  political :  he  dreams  of 
what  the  Shan  Van  Vocht  said  in  '98.  If  you  want  to  inter- 
est him  in  Ireland  you've  got  to  call  the  unfortunate  island 
Kathleen  ni  Hoolihan  and  pretend  she's  a  little  old  woman. 
It  saves  thinking.  It  saves  working.  It  saves  everything 
except  imagination,  imagination,  imagination;  and  imag- 
ination's such  a  torture  that  you  can't  bear  it  without 
whiskey." 

^  A  noticeable  feature  of  the  play's  construction  is  its  slow 
beginning;  the  first  act  might  more  properly  be  called  a  pro- 

376 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

logue.  The  remainder  of  the  play,  although  it  has  little  or  no 
story  worth  recounting,  is  constructed  with  unusual  care;  the 
interest  inheres  chiefly  in  the  dialogue  and  the  traits  of  the 
principal  characters.  When  Shaw  was  charged  with  throwing 
all  attempt  at  construction  overboard,  he  vehemently  replied :      > 

"  I  never  achieved  such  a  feat  of  construction  in  my  life. 
Just  consider  my  subject — the  destiny  of  nations  I  Con- 
sider my  characters — personages  who  stalk  on  the  stage 
impersonating  millions  of  real,  living,  suffering  men  and 
women.  Good  heavens  !  I  have  had  to  get  all  England  and 
Ireland  into  three  hours  and  a  quarter.  I  have  shown  the 
Englishman  to  the  Irishman  and  the  Irishman  to  the  Eng- 
lishman, the  Protestant  to  the  Catholic  and  the  Catholic 
to  the  Protestant.  I  have  taken  that  panacea  for  all  the 
misery  and  unrest  of  Ireland — your  Land  Purchase  Bill — 
as  to  the  perfect  blessedness  of  which  all  your  political 
parties  and  newspapers  were  for  once  unanimous;  and  I 
have  shown  at  one  stroke  its  idiocy,  its  shallowness,  its 
cowardice,  its  utter  and  foredoomed  futility.  I  have  shown 
the  Irish  saint  shuddering  at  the  humour  of  the  Irish 
blackguard — only  to  find,  I  regret  to  say,  that  the  average 
critic  thought  the  blackguard  very  funny  and  the  saint 
very  unpractical.  I  have  shown  that  very  interesting  psy- 
chological event,  the  wooing  of  an  unsophisticated  Irish- 
woman by  an  Englishman,  and  made  comedy  of  it  without 
one  lapse  from  its  pure  science.  I  have  even  demonstrated 
the  Trinity  to  a  generation  which  saw  nothing  in  it  but 
an  arithmetical  absurdity.  I  have  done  all  this  and  a  dozen 
other  things  so  humanely  and  amusingly  that  an  utterly 
exhausted  audience,  like  the  wedding  guest  in  the  grip  of 
the  Ancient  Mariner,  has  waited  for  the  last  word  before 
reeling  out  of  the  theatre  as  we  used  to  reel  out  of  the 
Wagner  Theatre  at  Bayreuth  after  Die  Gotterdammerung. 
And  this  they  tell  me  is  not  a  play.  This,  if  you  please, 
is  not  constructed."  * 

*  George  Bernard  Shaw:  A  Conversation,  in  The  Toiler,  November  16th, 
1904. 

377 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

Not  the  least  noticeable  feature  of  the  play  is  the  omission  of 
the  character  which,  in  former  plays,  appeared  as  Shaw  in 
disguise.  The  characters  are  sharply  individualized,  each  is  a 
personality  as  well  as  a  type.  Moreover,  Shaw  has  seized  the 
situation  with  the  hand  of  a  master ;  we  discern  an  Irish  Moliere 
revelling  in  the  comic  irony  of  character-reactions,  and  observ- 
ing the  rigid  impartiality  of  the  true  dramatist.  This  very 
fairness  allows  Shaw  a  free  play  of  intellect  that  partisanship 
would  have  stifled;  every  situation  is  transfused  with  the 
Shavian  ironic  consciousness.  I  once  asked  Mr.  William  Archer  / 
which  play  he  regarded  as  Shaw's  magnum  opus.  "  I  suppose 
Man  and  Superman  is  Shaw's  most  popular  play,"  said  Mr. 
Archer,  "  but  I  have  always  regarded  it,  somehow,  as  beneath 
— unworthy  of — Shaw.  I  should  be  inclined  to  rate  John  BulVs 
Other  Island  as  Shaw's  greatest  dramatic  work."  I  remember 
remarking  to  Mr.  Shaw  one  day  that  John  BulVs  Other  Island 
revealed  greater  solidity  of  workmanship  and  greater  self- 
restraint  than  any  of  his  former  plays.  "  Yes,  that  is  quite 
true,"  replied  Mr.  Shaw ;  "  my  last  plays,  beginning  with  John 
Butt,  are  set  more  firmly  upon  the  earth.  They  have  ceased 
to  be  fantastic,  and  tend  to  grow  more  solid  and  more  human." 
The  cleverest  and  truest  remark  about  John  Bull  was  made  by 
W.  B.  Yeats :  "  John  BulVs  Other  Island  is  the  first  play  of 
Bernard  Shaw's  that  has  a  genuine  geography." 

While  no  character  in  the  play  can  be  called  essentially 
Shavian,  it  is  noteworthy  that  Keegan,  the  unfrocked  parish 
priest,  is  the  "  ideal  spectator  " ;  in  his  mouth  Shaw  places  his 
own  poignant  criticisms  penetrating  to  the  heart  of  the  situa- 
tion. At  last  the  mystic  in  Shaw's  temperament  utters  his  noble 
message.  And  the  true  poet,  vaguely  shadowed  forth  in  that 
essentially  romantic  figure  Marchbanks,  speaks  from  the  heart 
of  Bernard  Shaw  in  the  accents  of  Keegan,  the  mystic: 

"  In  my  dreams  heaven  is  a  country  where  the  State  is 
the  Church  and  the  Church  the  people :  three  in  one  and 
one  in  three.  It  is  a  commonwealth  in  which  work  is  play 
and  play  is  life:  three  in  one  and  one  in  three.  It  is  a 
temple  in  which  the  priest  is  the  worshipper  and  the  wor- 

378 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

shipper  the  worshipped:  three  in  one  and  one  in  three.  It 
is  a  godhead  in  which  all  life  is  human  and  all  humanity 
divine:  three  in  one  and  one  in  three.  It  is,  in  short,  the 
dream  of  a  madman." 

In  Major  Barbara,  Shaw's  next  play,  we  discover  a  reversion 
to  the  earlier  economic  tone  of  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession  com- 
bined with  a  more  specific  elaboration  of  the  "  Shavian 
dramaturgy."  This  "  Discussion  in  three  acts  "  has  aroused  so 
much  discussion  as  to  its  meaning  and  purpose  that  the  story  of 
its  genesis  may  throw  some  light  upon  its  obscurities.  Mr. 
Shaw  once  related  to  me  the  circumstances  under  which  the 
germ  ideas  of  the  play  first  took  form  in  his  mind.  It  seems 
that,  while  spending  some  time  at  his  county  place,  Ayot  St. 
Lawrence,  in  Hertfordshire,  he  formed  an  acquaintance  with 
a  young  man  who  was  a  near  neighbour,  Mr.  Charles  McEvoy, 
the  author  of  a  play  entitled  David  Ballard,  produced  under 
the  auspices  of  the  London  Stage  Society.  At  the  close  of  the 
War  between  the  States  in  America,  Mr.  McEvoy's  father,  who 
had  fought  on  the  side  of  the  Confederacy,  and  was  a  most 
gentle  and  humane  man,  established  a  factory  for  the  manu- 
facture of  torpedoes  and  various  high-power  explosives.  The 
idea  of  this  grey-haired  gentleman,  of  peculiarly  gentle  nature 
and  benignant  appearance,  manufacturing  the  most  deadly  in- 
struments for  the  destruction  of  his  fellow-creatures  appealed  to 
Shaw  as  the  quintessence  of  ironic  contrast.  Here,  of  course, 
we  have  the  germ  idea  of  Andrew  Undershaft.  The  contrast 
of  the  mild-mannered  professor  of  Greek  with  the  militant 
armourer  occurred  to  Shaw  as  the  result  of  his  acquaintance 
with  a  well-known  scholar,  Professor  Gilbert  Murray,  admira- 
bly kodaked  by  Shaw  in  the  stage  description :  "  Cusins  is  a 
spectacled  student,  slight,  thin-haired  and  sweet  voiced.  .  .  . 
His  sense  of  humour  is  intellectual  and  subtle,  and  is  compli- 
cated by  an  appalling  temper.  The  lifelong  struggle  of  a 
benevolent  temperament  and  a  high  conscience  against  impulses 
of  inhuman  ridicule  and  fierce  impatience  has  set  up  a  chronic 
strain  which  has  visibly  wrecked  his  constitution.  He  is  a  most 
implacable,  determined,  tenacious,  intolerant  person,  who,  by 

380 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

mere  force  of  character,  presents  himself  as — and  actually  is 
— considerate,  gentle,  explanatory,  even  mild  and  apologetic, 
capable  possibly  of  murder,  but  not  of  cruelty  or  coarseness." 

In  1902,  when  Mrs.  Warren's  Profession  was  produced  in 
London,  Shaw  said  in  the  Author's  Apology  affixed  to  the 
Stage  Society  edition  of  that  play,  "  So  well  have  the  rescuers 
(of  fallen  and  social  outcasts)  learnt  that  Mrs.  Warren's  de- 
fence of  herself  and  indictment  of  society  is  the  thing  that  most 
needs  saying,  that  those  who  know  me  personally  reproach 
me,  not  for  writing  this  play,  but  for  wasting  my  energies 
on  '  pleasant  plays  '  for  the  amusement  of  frivolous  people, 
when  I  can  build  up  such  excellent  stage  sermons  on  their  own 
work."  Major  Barbara  marks  a  return  to  Shaw's  earlier  pre- 
occupation with  economic  themes  and  is  a  profound  study  of 
some  of  the  greatest  social  and  economic  evils  of  the  contem- 
porary capitalistic  regime.  In  conversation,  Mr.  Shaw  gave  me 
^the  reasons  which  led  him  to  write  this  play. 

"  For  a  long  time,"  he  said,  "  I  had  had  the  idea  of  the 
religious  play  in  mind ;  and  I  always  saw  it  as  a  conflict  between 
the  economic  and  religious  views  of  life. 

"  You  see,  long  ago,  I  wrote  a  novel  called  Cashel  Byron's 
Profession,  in  which  I  showed  the  strange  anomaly  of  a  pro- 
fession which  has  the  poetry  and  romance  of  fighting  about  it 
reduced  to  a  perfectly  and  wholly  commercial  basis.  Here  we 
see  the  pressure  of  economics  upon  the  profession  of  prize- 
fighting. 

"  After  a  while,  I  wrote  a  play  which  I  called  Mrs.  Warren's 
Profession.  I  showed  that  women  were  driven  to  prostitution,  / 
not  at  all  as  the  result  of  excessive  female  concupiscence,  but  * 
because  the  economic  conditions  of  modern  capitalistic  society 
forced  them  into  a  life  from  which,  in  another  state  of  society, 
they  would  have  shrunk  with  horror,  i  Here  we  see  the  pressure 
of  economics  upon  the  profession  of  prostitution.  *" 

,  "  Finally,  there  came  Major  Barbara.  Perhaps  a  more  suit- 
able title  for  this  play,  save  for  the  fact  of  repetition,  would 
have  been  Andrew  Under  shaft's  Profession.  Here  we  see  the 
pressure  of  economics  upon  the  profession  of  dealing  in  death 
and  destruction  to  one's  fellow-creatures.     I  have  shown  the 

381 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

conflict  between  the  naturally  religious  soul,  Barbara,  and  Un- 
dershaft,  with  his  gospel  of  money,  of  force,  of  power  and  his 
doctrine  not  only  that  money  controls  morality,  but  that  it  is 
a  crime  not  to  have  money.  The  tragedy  results  from  the 
collision  of  Undershaft's  philosophy  with  Barbara's." 

Major  Barbara  is  Shaw's  presentment,  as  Socialist,  of  the 
problem  of  social  determinism.  Undershaft  began  as  an  East 
Ender,  moralizing  and  starving,  until  he  swore  that  he  would 
be  a  full-fed  free  man  at  all  costs.  "  I  said,  '  Thou  shalt  starve 
ere  I  starve  ' ;  and  with  that  word  I  became  free  and  great." 
As  in  the  case  of  Mrs.  Warren,  "  Undershaft  is  simply  a  man 
who,  having  grasped  the  fact  that  poverty  is  a  crime,  knows 
that  when  society  offered  him  the  alternative  of  poverty  or  a 
lucrative  trade  in  death  and  destruction,  it  offered  him  not 
a  choice  between  opulent  villainy  and  humble  virtue,  but  be-./ 
tween  energetic  enterprise  and  cowardly  infamy."  The  doctrine 
of  the  direct  functionality  of  money  and  morality  is  no  new 
doctrine.  vColonel  Sellers  maintained  that  every  man  has  his  v 
price.  Becky  Sharp  averred  that  any  woman  can  be  virtuous 
v  on  five  thousand  pounds  a  year.  The  penniless  De  Rastignac 
on  the  heights  of  Montmartre,  shaking  his  fist  at  the  city  that 
never  sleeps,  bitterly  exclaimed :  "  Money  is  morality."  Shaw 
has  declared  again  and  again  in  the  public  prints  and  on  the'' 
platform,  that  money  controls  morality,  that  money  is  the  most 
important  thing  in  the  world,  and  that  all  sound  and  successful 
personal  and  social  morality  should  have  this  fact  for  its  basis. 
So  Undershaft,  asked  if  he  calls  poverty  a  crime,  replies : 

"  The  worst  of  crimes.  All  the  other  crimes  are  virtue 
beside  it:  all  the  other  dishonours  are  chivalry  itself  by 
comparison.  Poverty  blights  whole  cities :  spreads  horrible 
pestilences ;  strikes  dead  the  very  souls  of  all  who  come 
within  sight,  sound  or  smell  of  it.  What  you  call  crime  is 
nothing :  a  murder  here  and  a  theft  there,  a  blow  now  and 
a  curse  then:  what  do  they  matter?  they  are  only  the 
accidents  and  illnesses  of  life:  there  are  not  fifty  genuine 
professional  criminals  in  London.  But  there  are  millions 
of  poor  people,   abject  people,   dirty  people,  ill-fed,   ill- 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

clothed  people.  They  poison  us  morally  and  physically: 
they  kill  the  happiness  of  society;  they  force  us  to  do 
away  with  our  own  liberties  and  to  organize  unnatural 
cruelties  for  fear  they  should  rise  against  us  and  drag  us 
down  into  their  abyss.  Only  fools  fear  crime:  we  all  fear 
poverty.  Pah!  you  talk  of  your  half -saved  ruffian  in 
West  Ham;  you  accuse  me  of  dragging  his  soul  back  to 
perdition.  Well,  bring  him  to  me  here;  and  I  will  drag 
his  soul  back  again  to  salvation  for  you.  Not  by  words 
and  dreams;  but  by  thirty-eight  shillings  a  week,  a  sound 
house  in  a  handsome  street,  and  a  permanent  job.  In 
three  weeks  he  will  have  a  fancy  waistcoat ;  in  three  months 
a  tall  hat  and  a  chapel  sitting ;  before  the  end  of  the  year 
he  will  shake  hands  with  a  duchess  at  a  Primrose  League 
meeting,  and  join  the  Conservative  party.  ...  It  is 
cheap  work  converting  starving  men  with  a  Bible  in  one 
hand  and  a  slice  of  bread-and-butter  in  the  other.  I  will 
undertake  to  convert  West  Ham  to  Mahommedanism  on 
the  same  terms.  ...  I  had  rather  be  a  thief  than  a 
pauper.  I  had  rather  be  a  murderer  than  a  slave.  I  don't 
want  to  be  either;  but  if  you  force  the  alternative  on  me, 
then,  by  Heaven!  I'll  choose  the  braver  and  more  moral 
one.  I  hate  poverty  and  slavery  worse  than  any  other 
crime  whatsoever.  And  let  me  tell  you  this.  Poverty  and 
slavery  have  stood  up  for  centuries  to  your  sermons  and 
leading  articles:  they  will  not  stand  up  to  my  machine 
guns.  Don't  preach  at  them:  don't  reason  with  them. 
Kill  them." 

Now  it  is  patent  on  reflection  that  poverty  per  se  is  not  a 
crime,  but  frequently  an  incentive  to  crime;  poverty  is  an  evil^ 
that  must  be  remedied  by  social  reforms.*     The  casuistry  of 
Undershaft's  arguments  lies  in  the  assumption  that  good  ends*-^ 

*  Several  years  ago,  in  a  public  address,  Mr.  Andrew  Carnegie  made  the 
remarkable  statement:  "You  hear  a  good  deal  these  days  about  poverty. 
People  wish  it  abolished.  The  saddest  day  civilization  will  ever  see  will 
be  that  in  which  poverty  does  not  prevail.  Fortunately  we  are  assured 
that  the  poor  are  always  to  be  with  us.  It  is  upon  the  evil  of  poverty  that 
virtue  springs"! 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

justify  the  worst  of  crimes;  but  the  very  strongest  case  can 
be  made  out  against  this  materialist  Socialism,  inasmuch  as  it 
leaves  out  of  consideration  all  sense  of  individual  integrity  and 
personal  honour.  The  implication  of  Major  Barbara  is  that  the 
summum  bonum  vitce  is  not  virtue,  or  honour,  or  goodness,  or 
personal  worth,  but  material  well-being,  if  not  worldly  pros- 
perity. Undershaft  expresses  the  doctrine  of  those  industrial 
captains  of  the  predatory  rich  class  whom  Mr.  Roosevelt  has 
entitled  "  malefactors  of  great  wealth."  Mr.  John  D.  Rocke-  \/ 
feller  is  publicly  quoted  as  preaching  to  his  Sunday  School 
class  that  it  is  every  man's  religious  duty  to  make  as  much 
money  as  he  possibly  can — adding  the  sardonic  parenthesis, 
"  honestly,  of  course."  Undershaft,  whose  motto  is  "  Un- 
ashamed," finds  the  parenthesis  superfluous — his  expressed  doc- 
trine is  to  acquire  money  at  all  hazards — rede  si  possit,  si  non, 
qaocumque  modo  rem.  He  would  displace  the  Christian  doc- 
trine of  submission  with  the  Shavian  doctrine  of  self-assertion. 
If  the  present  practice  of  the  Christian  religion  is  found  inade- 
quate to  modern  social  conditions,  Undershaft  asserts,  why, 
scrap  the  Christian  morality,  and  try  another — the  Undershaft 
morality,  say,  faute  de  rrdeuoc.  But  with  that  comic  irony  which 
never  deserts  Shaw  even  in  treating  the  characters  most  akin 
to  himself  in  temperament,  he  betrays  the  discrepancy  in  Un- 
dershaf  t's  position :  the  lack  of  connection  between  his  "  tall 
talk  "  and  his  perfectly  legitimate  actions.  There  is  no  evi- 
dence that  Undershaft  employed  dishonest  means  in  the  ac- 
quisition of  his  wealth,  or  committed  any  violence  in  the  fur- 
therance of  his  commercial  ambition.  Lady  Britomart  acutely 
pricks  the  bubble  in  the  assertion  that  she  could  not  get  along 
with  Undershaft  because  he  gave  the  most  immoral  reasons  for 
the  most  moral  conduct! 

Shaw  suffered  the  customary  fate  of  the  dramatist  in  having 
Undershaft's  Nietzschean  doctrine  of  the  "  will  to  power  "  laid 
at  his  own  door.  It  is  an  historic  fact  that  Shaw  once  dis- 
suaded a  mob  from  going  on  another  window-smashing  excursion 
in  the  West  End,  by  convincing  them  of  its  futility:  and  yet  J 
in  the  preface  to  Major  Barbara  he  says,  "  The  problem  being 
to  make  heroes  out  of  cowards,  we  paper  apostles  and  artist 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

magicians  have  succeeded  only  in  giving  cowards  all  the  sensa- 
tions of  heroes  whilst  they  tolerate  every  domination,  accept 
every  plunder,  and  submit  to  every  oppression."  As  a  Fabian, 
Shaw^is  ajstrict  advocate  of  procedure  by  constitutional  means ; 
he  constitutionally  agitated  for  Old  Age  Pensions,  threatening 
the  Liberal  Party  all  the  while  with  speedy  dissolution  if  this 
measure  were  not  carried  into  effect.  It  is  quite  evident  that  in 
Major  Barbara,  Shaw  is  endeavouring  to  awake  public  thought 
and  arouse  public  sentiment  in  England  upon  the  momentous 
problems  of  poverty  and  the  unemployed.  To  rich  and  poor 
alike,  he  quite  consistently  and  impartially  preaches  Socialism, 
finding  this  to  be  most  effectively  accomplished  by  putting  in 
the  mouths  of  his  dramatic  characters  extremes  of  opinion  ex- 
pressed in  the  extremest  ways.  Shaw  advises  the  malefactor  of 
great  wealth,  after  acquiring  a  swollen  fortune,  to  turn  So- 
cialist and,  emulating  the  examples  of  Carnegie  and  Rhodes  in 
educational  and  other  fields,  to  employ  his  wealth  in  improving 
the  conditions  of  life  for  the  working  classes.*  To  the  poor, 
Shaw  points  out  the  inadequacy  of  the  "  paper  apostles  and 
artist  magicians,"  and  the  imperative  necessity  of  militant  op- 
position to  oppression,  revolt  against  subjection  and  poverty. 
In  speaking  of  Undershaft's  "  hideous  gospel,"  Sir  Oliver 
Lodge  pertinently  says,  "  Perhaps,  after  all,  it  is  only  the 
wealthy  cannon-maker's  gospel  that  is' being  preached  to  us; 
why  should  we  take  it  as  the  gospel  of  Shaw  himself?  Shaw 
must  have  a  better  gospel  than  that  in  the  future,  and  some 
day  he  will  tell  it  us,  but  not  yet.  As  yet,  perhaps,  it  has  not  \J 
dawned  clearly  on  him.  ...  In  nearly  all  Bernard  Shaw's 
writings  .  .  .  the  background  of  strenuous  labour,  of  poverty 
and  overwork,  which  constitutes  the  foundation  of  modern  so- 
ciety, is  kept  present  to  the  consciousness  all  the  time,  is  borne 
in  upon  the  mind  even  of  the  most  thoughtless :  it  is  not  possible 
to  overlook  it,  and  that  is  why  his  writings  are  so  instructive 
and  so  welcome."  t 

*In  the  Fabian  tract,  Socialism  for  Millionaires,  Shaw  preaches  much 
the  same  gospel  to  the  millionaire.  This  paper  was  first  published  in  the 
Contemporary  Review,  February,  1896. 

f  Major  Barbara,'  G.  B.  S.,  and  Robert  Blatchford,  by  Sir  Oliver  Lodge; 
in  the  Clarion  (London),  December  29th,  1905. 

385 


GEORGE  BERNARD  SHAW 

From  the  dramatic  standpoint,  Major  Barbara  is  the  most 
remarkable  demonstration  yet  given  by  Shaw  of  the  vitality  of 
a  type  of  entertainment  in  complete  contradistinction  to  the 
classical  model.  Shaw  has  created  a  form  of  stage  representa- 
tion, not  differing  externally  from  the  conventional  form  of 
drama,  in  which  material  action  attains  its  irreducible  minimum, 
and  the  conflict  takes  place  absolutely  within  the  minds  and 
souls  of  the  characters.  Major  Barbara  consists  in  a  succession 
of  logical  demonstrations,  flowing  from  conflicting  reactions  set 
up  in  the  souls  of  the  leading  characters  by  the  simplest  actions, 
externally  trivial  but  subjectively  of  vital  significance.  In  this 
play  Shaw  fully  justifies  his  cardinal  tenet  of  dramatic  criticism 
that  illumination  of  life  is  the  prime  function  of  the  dramatist, 
and  that  the  life  of  drama  is  not  merely  the  passion  of  sexual 
excitement,  but  the  social,  religious  and  humanitarian  passions. 
The  drama  of  the  future  will  concern  itself  with  the  passion  of 
humanity  for  all  great  ends.  J 

Major  Barbara  is  epoch-making  in  virtue  of  its  theme:  the 
evolutional  struggle  of  the  religious  consciousness  in  a  single 
personality.  The  stage  upon  which  the  drama  is  enacted  is  the 
soul  of  the  Salvation  Army  devotee.  "  Since  I  saw  the  Passion 
Play  at  Oberammergau,"  said  Mr.  W.  T.  Stead  in  writing  of 
Major  Barbara,  "  I  have  not  seen  any  play  which  represented 
so  vividly  the  pathos  of  Gethsemane,  the  tragedy  of  Calvary."  * 
I  do  not  see  how  anyone  can  read  this  story  of  a  souPs  tragedy, 
or  see  the  play  upon  the  stage,  without  a  quickening  of  the 
nobler  emotions,  and  a  realization  that  Bernard  Shaw  is  a  man 
of  profound  feeling  and  of  sentiment,  in  the  best  sense.  The 
second  act  is  the  acme  of  great  art,  alike  in  the  validity  of  its 
emotive  power  and  the  marvellous  portraiture  of  true  practical 
Christianity  in  the  character  of  Major  Barbara.  The  sanity 
and  sweetness  of  her  noble  nature,  the  positive  divination  of  her 
religious  sense  which  inspires  her  to  sink  self  and  go  straight 
to  the  heart  of  the  religious  problem,  are  revelations  in  the 
art  of  character-portrayal.  Her  loss  of  faith  appears  insuf- 
ficiently motived  in  the  play;  her  conversion  in  the  last  act  is 

*  Impressions  of  the  Theatre. — XIV.    Mr.  Bernard  Shaw's  'Major  Bar- 
bara/ in  the  Review  of  Reviews  (London),  January  27th,  1906. 

386 


THE  PLAYWRIGHT— III 

even  less  convincing.  Undershaft